The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) identified UBC start-up, Aspect Biosystems, as one of three companies that exemplify Vancouver’s entrepreneurial buzz. The 3D bioprinting company was chosen because it demonstrates the strength Vancouver businesses derive from combining great ideas with a stable business climate, a first-class education system and a close association with the natural environment. The impact UBC has had on Vancouver’s climate of innovation can be seen in how this research, started in ECE’s Walus Lab, has flourished in the last two years. UBC’s contribution can also be seen in the other VEC choices, D-Wave and General Fusion, both companies founded by UBC Alumni.
Aspect Biosystems’ bio-printing technology has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of drug development. Today it takes $1-4 billion and 12-14 years to develop a drug. One of the primary reasons for the high cost and time spent is the poor predictive accuracy of the drug discovery process. Conventional drug development and testing methods rely on the use of 2D cell cultures and animal models. 2D cell cultures are grown on flat, hard surfaces that prevent cells from interacting with their environment in a natural way. 3D cultures are grown in a flexible, protein environment that more closely mimics conditions within the body. Recent studies have demonstrated that 3D cell co-cultures better represent in vivo conditions compared to the standard 2D cultures currently being used in the drug discovery process and have the potential to replace animal models. Aspect Biosystems aims to improve the predictive accuracy of the front end drug discovery process by providing pharmaceutical companies with high-efficacy printed tissue models that better mimic in vivo conditions.
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