Dublin, Boston, Gothenburg – April, 2022—Imagine a future where a bone break can be repaired by 3D-printing bones made from marine coral. That reality may come a lot sooner that one might think, thanks to a truly innovative collaboration agreement between Irish-owned, and Galway-based, Zoan BioMed, and Sweden-based CELLINK (STO: BICO). Uniquely, Zoan BioMed sustainably grows and harvests marine coral for use in human bone graft procedures, while CELLLINK, a BICO Company, is the global leader in the development and provision of bioprinters and biomaterials. The partners hope to revolutionise orthopedics and provide quicker and better outcomes for patients around the world.
The orthopedic device market is estimated to be around $54 billion yet still faces many challenges in promoting native regeneration. Zoan BioMed, along with leading clinicians around the world, have recognised the huge potential that marine coral has in significantly improving patient outcomes and reducing the cost associated with bone repair. Because of its comparative similarities to human bone structure and its inherent strength and purity, marine coral is a highly effective bone grafting substitute. Compared to both synthetic and bovine graft materials, the bone grafting materials derived from marine coral are believed to mitigate residual pain and inflammation in patients, and only one operation is required, resulting in shorter hospital stays. Marine coral is composed of the minerals and salts from the surrounding water, which creates a natural assembly with biophysical properties ideal for bone cells to colonize and remodel around. However, with the rapid depletion of wild coral from the world’s oceans it was not deemed a viable option from a sustainability point of view. Until now. Through this collaboration, CELLINK and Zoan BioMed plan to use these inherent properties of coral and develop effective coral-containing bioinks suitable for 3D bioprinting of bone structures.
Zoan BioMed designs and develops orthopaedic devices derived from the ethical and sustainable cultivation of marine coral, grown in its state-of-the-art facility on the shores of Lough Inagh in Connemara. The company has developed the world’s first, scalable indoor coral production system with ISO 13485 accreditation. When harvested, refined into granules and implanted by the surgeon into the bone trauma site, the material accelerates healing, safeguards against infection, reduces surgeon operating time, and ultimately gets patients back on their feet and enjoying life quicker.
A truly sustainable business, Zoan BioMed’s one-time license of coral (CITES approved stock) grandfathers all its future harvests, with no need to return to the ocean to replenish, and no risk or threat to the wild coral resource. Its harvesting technique allows for exponential growth and helps offset carbon production. The company’s facility in Connemara uses wind sourced power with no direct reliance on fossil fuels. Its core manufacturing process requires optimum energy efficiency in terms of metabolic rates, lighting and temperature, while its cultivation process operates at 26oC to produce coral compared with the 1200oC required for sintering of synthetic bone grafting materials.
CELLINK is part of the BICO group and provide technologies, products, and services that enable researchers and clinicians to create, understand, and master biology. The company enables customers to grow cells in 3D environments, conduct high-throughput drug screening and print human tissues and organs for the medical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Formed in 2016 they have had incredible success in building out a global company that delivers on the convergence of technology and biology.
Commenting on the partnership, Stephen Wann, CEO, Zoan Biomed said, “With CELLINK we have the ideal partner that can build upon our encouraging trial results that we have observed with our coral material. We know we have a unique material that can offer better patient outcomes in trauma and spine repairs. It is incredibly exciting to envisage that we can mimic and improve those results with a 3D printed solution that can offer customised patient devices.
“It’s a very significant market and demand is growing every year as new markets are created, populations age and patients seek new treatments to improve their quality of life. CELLINK has an incredible track record of innovation and a shared view of the role we all need to play in building sustainable products. Together we can help realise the full potential of marine coral with CELLINK’s world class technology and deep experience.”
Itedale Namro Redwan, Chief Scientific Officer, CELLINK, said, “We are thrilled to be working alongside Zoan BioMed and leverage their deep knowledge of marine coral to develop novel biomaterials for orthopaedic devices and coral conservation,”
Funding Global Innovation
In addition to the partnership with CELLINK, Zoan BioMed is also announcing its latest fundraising round of up to €5m, to fund its next phase of international growth. To date, the company has been funded through private investment along with financial backing from the European Fund, Enterprise Ireland, Western Development Commission and Údarás Na Gaeltachta. A seasoned executive team, headed up by Stephen Wann, has been put in place to help Zoan BioMed realise its global ambitions.
Marine Coral Restoration
With both Zoan BioMed and CELLINK having sustainability at the heart of their businesses, the partnership will also investigate the potential of restoring dead or dying coral in the world’s oceans. In addition to its potential within the orthopedic realm, CELLINK’s bioinks have significant potential in aiding the restoration of marine coral when combined with biofabrication principles. Through their work together the two companies will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, joining countries and companies around the world who have committed to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and material resources.
“At the core of CELLINK’s vision is developing sustainable solutions. We are tremendously proud to be working towards a SDG alongside Zoan Biomed,” added Cecilia Edebo, CEO, CELLINK.