Brazil’s First Congress on Bioengineering: From Bioprinting in Agriculture to New Startups

3D bioprinting is achieving wide acceptance around the world. Scientists, medical researchers, and bioengineers are not only employing high-end bioprinting systems to artificially fabricate biological products, but many are developing their own customized machines, bioinks, and bioprinting techniques. While developing countries have advanced biofabrication with an array of startups booming in bioprinting hubs around the world, Latin America’s low purchasing power struggle has delayed the widespread adoption of highly-priced bioprinting technology in most countries, except for Brazil. Albeit at a slower pace than most developing nations, Brazil is experiencing a growing interest in biotechnology, along with public and private investment in the development and production of bioprinters and bioinks, as well as an increasing amount of scientific literature on the subject.
With the purpose of exploring real-life case studies, new bioengineering business models and success stories, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), under the aegis of the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, held the First Digital Congress on Nanobiotechnology and Bioengineering (I CDNB).

Collaborative researcher at Brazilian lab (Credit: Bioprint3D)

The inaugural virtual summit that broadcasted live every day from June 1 until June 4, brought together leading scientists and directors of local bioengineering developments to share ideas and experiences, as well as identify common interests, and talk about some breakthrough developments in bioprinting for agroindustry and veterinary medicine.
With more than 5,000 registered participants, the event was a local success. Also featured were panel discussions and presentations focusing on 3D modeling, biomaterials, hardware and software development, biomimetics, and nanotechnology in medicine and food.
Among the speakers and panelists at the virtual event, was opening keynoter Luciano Paulino da Silva, senior researcher of Embrapa’s Genetic Resources and Biotechnology division, focusing on nanobiotechnology applied to the fields of agriculture and biomedicine. Also the coordinator of the summit, Paulino da Silva’s opening lecture focused on nano biofabrication, discussing everything from sustainable nanomaterials to the production of functional biostructures.

Paulino da Silva described the Brazilian bioprinting community as “vibrant and eager for scientific and technological innovations in the field that would make it possible to go from the production of cellularized scaffolds for screening drugs and bioactives to the manufacture of organ mimetics and development of innovative bioprinters.”

During the event, 3DPrint.com virtually caught up with Paulino da Silva to discuss how bioprinting research is advancing in Brazil. The expert asserted his enthusiasm as he discussed the future of the Brazilian 3D bioprinting community as an important contributor to the field. Yet, he also focused on some of the challenges that lie ahead for the country’s foremost researchers in bioprinting, especially the need for continuous support stemming from both public and private initiatives.

“I am hoping to see more collaborative efforts not only between research institutions but also with companies. It would be great to establish partnerships in disruptive projects with multidisciplinary teams focused on reaching technological solutions that meet the real demands of the field,” highlighted Paulino da Silva. “Still, there is a need for more public and private investments, as well as access to inputs; but for that to happen, we need to make import processes easier from a regulatory standpoint.”

Embrapa’s Genetic Resources and Biotechnology division, lead by Luciano Paulino da Silva – in the center. (Credit: Embrapa)

Greater involvement in bioprinting research from private companies, most of them startups, as well as research institutions and academia, has led to an increase in the local development of bioprinters, innovative bioconstructs for cosmetics testing and substance screening, and production of advanced and smart bioinks with enhanced rheological features based on hydrogels. Researchers are also taking advantage of the natural resources from Brazil’s biodiversity, a great source for the development of maturogens and growth factors to advance maturation processes.

Embrapa’s Laboratory of Nanobiotechnology (LNANO), in Brasilia, has one of the best infrastructures and facilities for 3D bioprinting in the country, thanks to its five bioprinters and ongoing development of customized biofabrication techniques, including wet spinning and electrospinning. Additionally, researchers at LNANO are in the process of implementing a 3D/4D biofabrication platform for agriculture, which, Paulino da Silva claimed would be the first in the world.

Up until now, all we know about the project is that Embrapa’s researchers are close to structuring a platform that will fabricate agro-related products, such as artificial seeds and mimetics of insect pests. The results will help improve the quality and certification of agricultural products, biotechnology, agro energy, and provide new uses to the industry of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as innovation in food conservation and veterinary medicine. After all, agriculture in Brazil continues to be one of the principal bases of the economy, which is why this project is so relevant for the evolution of the industry.

Through the digital event, Embrape sought to bring a unique opportunity to connect, learn, and evolve, and ultimately deepen bioprinting expertise. CEOs, founders, and experts in some of the commercial developments throughout the region outlined commercial forecasts for the sector of bioengineering, discussed on-demand bioprinting technology, and the hurdles to providing affordable options in the region.

Featuring both new and familiar content, Gabriel Liguori, CEO and founder of the biotechnology startup TissueLabs, discussed how his company is preparing for the future of bioprinting by creating new equipment and tissue constructs, as well as how bioprinting availability is driving local development, for use in healthcare and personalized medicine.

“The event was a great opportunity to share our work, but also to reach thousands of people who are not yet aware of the potential of 3D bioprinting. We also presented our recently launched 3D bioprinter TissueStart, which drew a lot of attention from summit attendees who said they were amazed by the technologies presented during the event. We hope many Brazilian scientists became familiar with 3D bioprinting technology and its potential,” Liguori commented to 3DPrint.com.

TissueLabs new bioprinter (Credit: TissueLabs)

Alternatively, Allevi‘s vice president of Life Sciences, Taciana Pereira, delved into the leading bioprinting company’s production of bioinks. Originally from Curitiba, Brazil, Pereira worked at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering before joining Allevi, where she leads research and development of applications and bioinks for 3D bioprinting. Pereira told 3DPrint.com that she always sought to make sure that her work in the United States also had a positive impact at home:

“When I joined Allevi, I kept close communication with the Brazilian research community to enable the growth of 3D bioprinting. I remember speaking at a Latin American tissue engineering congress three years ago, back when this technology did not have so much presence in Brazil; however, since then, I have seen tremendous growth, not only as a part of research investigations but also in many related industries. This congress is so important for Brazilian science and I was ecstatic to see presentations from 3D bioprinting research groups and startups. Brazilians have so much grit and creativity that I am confident these projects will continue to advance and disrupt the global scenario.”

The summit also explored other areas, including biofabrication techniques, 3D modeling for bioengineering, tissue engineering, in vitro development of skin mimetics, and nanotechnology applications in healthcare and agriculture, which has become a flashpoint in local debate.

Currently, there are three established bioengineering startups that manufacture bespoke low-cost bioprinting equipment for local researchers, including TissueLabs, 3D Biotechnology Solutions, and NanoDiversity in Sao Paulo, and Bioprint3D in Brasilia. However, according to Paulino da Silva, most of the major world manufacturers of bioprinters also have representatives in the country that provide local support to the dozens of labs and companies that have invested in the technology.

Fibrous scaffolds containing cells to mimick tubular organs (Credit: Bioprint3D)

In the last four years, collaboration to generate bioprinting technologies has escalated. For example, Embrapa’s recent technical cooperation with Due Laser resulted in the development of a 3D bioprinter called Biomaker. Other tailor-made 3D bioprinters produced in collaboration with 3D Biotechnology Solutions were used to fabricate some of the most advanced bioconstructs ever made in the country for applications ranging from agriculture to veterinary medicine and biomedicine. However, Paulino da Silva hopes to see more joint efforts between research institutes and universities in order to take the country’s 3D bioprinting to the next level.

“The Brazilian scientific community has many highly qualified professionals and undergraduate and graduate programs that train dozens of professionals every year, ready to join research projects and emerging startups. However, financial resources for projects are generally very limited, as are access to products from other countries,” described Paulino da Silva. “Here is were the creative spirit of our local scientists makes a big difference, as they are able to continue on the path of biofabrication in the midst of adversities.”

The I CDNB was an excellent opportunity for professionals to interact with renowned researchers from Brazil. The event represented a milestone for the country, demonstrating progress in the development and adoption of bioprinting technologies, paving the way for the next edition of the congress in 2021.

The post Brazil’s First Congress on Bioengineering: From Bioprinting in Agriculture to New Startups appeared first on 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.

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