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How bioengineering pushes the boundaries of personalised medicine

Professor Daniel Kelly and Professor Fergal O’Brien, Principal Investigators at the SFI centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research at Trinity College Dublin and RCSI.

Better patient outcomes are only possible when the boundaries of science and engineering are pushed, so research and development is crucial in Ireland’s health science sector.

Research advancements in regenerative medicine will transform the way patients are treated in Ireland, according to Professor Daniel Kelly, AMBER Principal Investigator and Director of Trinity Centre for BioEngineering, at Trinity College Dublin.

He envisions a future where hospitals will have 3D bioprinting systems, enabling ‘off-the-shelf’ patient-specific biological implants to treat diseases such as osteoarthritis – which is a core area of research for his team.

Professor Kelly’s research includes the use of 3D bioprinting to generate anatomically accurate, biomimetic constructs that can be used to regenerate both cartilage and bone in a diseased joint.

Industry collaboration is key to realising vision

Access to and working with industry partners is central to creating targeted advances in materials and process technologies in this space.

“Working with industry partners such as Johnson and Johnson means that we have the capability to translate our research into production, delivering new products and innovations,” Professor Kelly notes.

“This is essential for market differentiation in the Life Science sector, and also having real impact on patient outcomes.”

Medtech support helps innovate bioscaffolding

“Partnership, innovation and scientific collaboration is key,” according to Professor Fergal O’Brien, AMBER Deputy Director, who has successfully translated work in collagen biomaterials to repair damaged bone and cartilage from his lab in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, to human patients through a spin-out medtech company. He is looking to the future.

“We want to expand into new and exciting areas of research such as the development of electroconductive biomaterials for nerve repair,” he added.

“We’re looking at different lines of research to do this, one of which is to incorporate nanomaterials, such as graphene, into 3D bioscaffolds.”

Multi-disciplinary teams

Developing these next generation implants relies on collaboration with industry but also between scientists and engineers working across disciplines.

“The success of this work relies on the ability to work across traditional subject and discipline boundaries to access a diversity of scientific expertise,” Professor O’Brien continues.

“Collaborating with other research groups opens up possibilities to generate new ideas and solutions, which will drive the future of healthcare.”

Both agree that being Principal Investigators within AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland centre for Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research, has been a key enabler for large scale engagements with industry, cross-discipline collaboration, and has opened up new avenues for research.

Commenting on the relationship between research and industry, Professor O’Brien notes: “A thriving research sector, which has been delivering impactful scientific research for many years has been central to the success of the medical technology and biopharmaceutical sector in Ireland.

“As scientists, we constantly look to the future to ask what’s next for healthcare, but also, how can we ensure our research is translated into patient benefit while ideally creating high value jobs in Ireland.

“Maintaining and nurturing this ecosystem is essential to sustaining continued economic growth in the life science sector.”

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