The College of Engineering has been selected as a key partner in a major, federally supported initiative aimed at creating a new industry that may one day manufacture living tissue and organs at scale for rapid delivery to patients.
The US Department of Defense has funded a nation-wide consortium of government, academia and industry, known as the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), to create the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Manufacturing USA Institute (ATB). The DOD is committing $80 million to the effort, which will be combined with $214 million contributed by the 87 partners in the initiative. The institute is part of a broader US government initiative to create new manufacturing industries – and jobs – suited to the needs of the 21st century. ARMI will be headquartered in Manchester, NH, and has as its board chairman inventor Dean Kamen, a member of the College’s Engineering Leadership Advisory Board.
According to College of Engineering Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen, “Our unique research strengths at the intersection of tissue engineering, nano-technology, and photonics and optics position the College of Engineering – and associated researchers in the College of Arts & Sciences and School of Medicine – to play a major role in creating a new industry that holds the promise of advancing our society in ways we could have hardly imagined just a short time ago.”
Combining expertise in tissue engineering, advanced manufacturing and other areas, ARMI aims to create a new ecosystem that will engineer human tissue – and even whole organs – at scale and deliver it to patients on a near-just-in-time basis and at a reasonable cost. While the DOD is interested in medical applications for the military, it also is encouraging novel commercial use.
“Creating a whole new industry and related infrastructure holds promise not just for seriously ill patients, but for creating new manufacturing jobs in America,” Lutchen added. “This country is uniquely positioned to lead the development of a biofabrication industry and we look forward to working with our partners on projects that create these life-saving technologies and products, and deliver them to people in need.”
ARMI aims to create a robust biofabrication manufacturing ecosystem by integrating the diverse research and industrial efforts in 3D biofabrication, high-throughput cultures, bioreactors, storage methodologies, and real-time monitoring and sensing, among others. Members are working on a host of challenges associated with engineering living tissue and keeping it alive long enough to reach patients.
Professor David Bishop (ECE, Physics, ME, MSE), head of the Materials Science & Engineering Division, will coordinate BU’s involvement in the initiative. As a key member of the consortium, Boston University will have the opportunity to propose research projects and to join other projects funded by the consortium. BU is one of just 26 academic partners; others include Harvard, Yale and Stanford universities, MIT and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, among others.