Bioengineering is still a few years away from the point where a doctor can extract kidney cells from a patient, plug them into a 3D bioprinter, hit “print” and wait for a new human kidney to be built.
But that day will come, said Tamer Mohamed, co-founder and CEO of Aspect Biosystems, which developed a 3D bioprinter that uses live human cells to build living human tissue.
Aspect’s RX1 bioprinter is already being used to create respiratory tissue for pharmaceutical trials instead of using animals for testing. And earlier this year, the company entered a partnership with Johnson & Johnson to use its bioprinter to produce meniscus – the rubbery disc in the knee that can cause debilitating pain if damaged.
“We’re working with them to produce a personalized meniscus tissue that would be implanted in the body,” Mohamed said.
A med-tech wunderkind who co-founded Aspect when he was just 24 and still in university, Mohamed has spoken about bioprinting at TEDx and his company has won a number of accolades, including Metabridge’s Most Promising Startup in Canada and Startup Canada’s Innovation Award.
Mohamed earned a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering and a master of science degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of British Columbia.
In 2013, while he was still completing his master’s degree, he co-founded Aspect. One of the more difficult decisions he has had to make was forgoing his PhD studies to expand his company.
Mohamed is almost as proud of the company’s business model originality as he is of its bioengineering breakthroughs.
“I think everybody would agree that printing tissues is scientifically amazing and could have a lot of impact, but it’s a whole other thing to figure out how are you going to monetize this,” he said.
The company’s revenue comes not only from selling its RX1 bioprinters to researchers, as well as human tissue products, but also from its rights to the tissues that those other researchers develop, which will provide future revenue streams on any products that become commercialized.
Where you live now:
Highest level of education:
Master of science in electrical and computer engineering, UBC
How Google Works, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
Currently listening to:
“A Sky Full of Stars,” Coldplay
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up:
Profession you would most like to try:
Toughest business or professional decision:
Leaving academia and starting a company
Advice you would give the younger you:
Don’t be afraid to fail
What’s left to do:
Have a positive impact on patients’ lives with transplantable 3D-printed organs
Join us to celebrate the 2017 Forty under 40 Awards on January 23, 2018, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit http://www.biv.com/events/40under40