Axolotl Biosciences – 9 February
Imagine a world where 3D printing could be used to generate personalized organs for treating diseased and damaged tissue without the risk of rejection nor need to find a donor. This is regenerative medicine.
Axolotl Biosciences – a Victoria-based biotechnology company – aims to advance the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine through the delivery of innovative products that facilitate the 3D bioprinting of humanized-tissue models. Axolotl is expanding a series of turn-key reagents, including bioinks, 3D tissue models, and consulting services in the field of 3D bioprinting. In particular, Axolotl provides a xeno-free bioink with a patented embedded drug-delivery system that enables the ability to print extremely delicate stem cells and reliably differentiate these cells into neural tissue – a technology not considered possible let alone reliable until now, despite strong researcher demand for a ‘neurobioink’.
Axolotl’s technology harnesses the potential of stem cells to generate personalized tissue models as both a tool for drug screening, as well as for therapeutic applications. Their technology will add to the bioprinting industry’s already high growth rate by introducing a disruptive technology.
Current ink producers (Cellink, Sigma Aldrich, Claro, and Allevi) have advanced inks that compete with Axolotl’s base ink. Axolotl, however, is the only ink that is xeno-free (contains no animal proteins), maintains a high cell-viability post-print, requires little post-print labour, is completely transparent (for post-print analysis), and is optimized for multiple printers.
Axolotl also has a patented drug-delivery system that is a one-of-a-kind capability that allows for control of cell growth, distribution, and homogeneity. This unique property allows researchers to not only print human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC), but to reliably differentiate them into neural tissue and promote cell growth. This cell line represents a significantly understudied area.
The company’s customer support has been crafted out of design-thinking principles and is committed to helping its clients achieve quality reproducible prints in a reasonable timeframe. Axolotl makes qualified printing and user-experience experts available for trouble-shooting with a variety of teaching tools at their disposal, remedying a common pain point of printer-users when using a new ink.
Axolotl Biosciences was incorporated in March 2020 and has been on a rapid upward trajectory. Their initial bio-ink formulation is currently being evaluated by ten different beta testers, six of them being academic groups and four being companies, including Cellink – one of the leading manufacturers of bioprinters in the world.
Axolotl is crafting a full user-experience that will allow for easy use of its technology and fine-tuning its operations in preparation for an initial product launch. Research and development of a patented drug delivery model is also a top company priority in working toward the end goal of revolutionizing regenerative medicine.
Axolotl is currently raising $2 million. This funding would be used to move out of the University of Victoria and into their own facility. It would also cover staff salaries and production costs for their Tissue Print bio-ink. They are looking to onboarding two more full-time staff in Spring 2021.
Axolotl has enjoyed significant non-dilutive funding that has enabled R&D and legal costs for patent filing. The Innovation to Commercialization Award from the Michael Smith Foundation has provided an extensive runway that has allowed Axolotl to optimize processes, develop significant IP, and prepare for its initial product launch. Government programs such as NRC-IRAP, Innovate BC, CanExport, and BioTalent Canada have allowed Axolotl to mine the world-class University of Victoria biomedical engineering school for up-and-coming talent.
Currently, overcoming legal hurdles enroute to product launch and formalizing production are Axolotl’s prioritized concerns. Keeping these projects on track while also enabling Axolotl’s R&D pipeline to study growth factor embedded inks is a long term focus. To balance the evolution of all these capabilities, Axolotl has adopted an agile, deep-learning project management methodology. This, of course, requires enabling a talented team to work in unison, step outside of their comfort zone, and develop new competencies. Axolotl intends to succeed by actively growing a culture that fosters collaboration, personal growth, and discovery.
Dr Stephanie Willerth (Founder and CEO), a tenured Professor and Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria, is an award-winning engineer and internationally recognized leader in 3D bioprinting. She has published 65 peer-reviewed journal articles, 78 conference publications, 2 provisional patents, and 10 book chapters. The Willerth Lab has been incredibly productive in the field of 3D bioprinting tissues publishing 9 papers.
Dr Laura De la Vega (Founder) brings significant experience, having authored seven peer-reviewed journal articles, including the first publication to use the Aspect Biosystems RX1 to bio-print stem cell-derived tissues. She completed an Industry Accelerate internship at Aspect Biosystems during her PhD at the University of Victoria, winning several conference awards. She also has a background in entrepreneurship, having completed her undergraduate degree at ITESM – a pioneer in Latin American entrepreneurial education.
Laila Abelseth (Founder) is a Biomedical Engineering graduate from the University of Victoria pursuing an MSc. in Engineering Management at UCLA. Laila brings significant experience on materials science and bioprinting, specifically on the development of bio-ink formulations and optimization using various bioprinting systems.
Emily Abelseth is a Biomedical Engineering graduate from the University of Victoria. She brings experience in bio-ink manufacturing processes and bioprinting on various platforms having previously worked in The Willerth Lab and the Biofabrication Lab at the University of Saskatchewan. Emily serves as Axolotl’s QA/QC Engineer, and assists with Axolotl’s social media and marketing.
Kali Scheck is a Biology graduate from the University of Victoria. She previously volunteered in the Willerth lab, and brings experience with bio-ink production and optimization, and bioprinting. She serves as Axolotl’s Production Manager.
Axolotl anticipates signing distribution deals for their bio-ink with leading biotechnology companies like Cellink and STEMCELL Technologies. They will also have a contemporary online sales portal and intend to continuously optimize its online platform in order to allow researchers who have particular printers to select ink formulas optimized for their printer and search teaching materials on 3D bioprinting troubleshooting. This will allow for a simple, streamlined purchasing processes and delivery of a turn-key product that allows for reduced onboarding time and easy learning during the first few prints.
Axolotl’s ink is made in-house in its lab and will be shipped directly to its end-users around the globe. Our highly talented customer support team will assist new users in the early stages of printing with our new bioink. The provision of excellent support that understands the full user-experience is considered a central fixture in Axolotl’s entire product offering. Recognition of the life sciences community’s culture of camaraderie, collaboration, and co-discovery will assist the achievement of the company’s end goal of advancing regenerative medicine.