(Picture from: http://www.gizmag.com/3d-bio-printer/13609/)
Ikhlaq Sidhu, the Fung Institute’s Chief Scientist, gives his opinions on 3D bio-printing, stating that 3D bio-printing will have a huge impact on society and people’s lives, along with tremendous business opportunities.
3D printing is the process of creating a 3D object from a digital model by using additive manufacturing, in which an object is made by adding material layer by layer and fusing it together. This approach contrasts with traditional manufacturing, in which an object is formed by removing excess material. This report will focus on 3D printing in the medical field and discuss the current state of technology, disruptive changes, societal impacts, affected industries, the value net analysis and the opportunities for new businesses.
Currently, 3D printing is being used for dental fabrication and prosthetics manufacturing. In addition, researchers are actively exploring the potential of printing bones, tissues and organs for replacement. It is projected that in the next decade there will be significant advancements in this area, which will result in adoption and commercialization of these technologies. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 113,000 patients in the U.S. are currently waiting for an organ transplant. As a result of this technology, there will be fewer number of people waiting for organ replacement and the mortality rate for organ replacements either from the wait time or from issues relating to recipient’s compatibility
with transplanted organ will be greatly reduced.
As these technologies advance, several regulatory and societal factors will need to be addressed. For example, since the tissue or organ will have to be matched to the recipient, FDA approvals will be necessary. Societal factors, such as athletes enhancing their performance with additional 3D-printed muscle tissue, would have to be considered and regulated. Another major shift would be longer life expectancy, which would impact retirement, savings, social security, and Medicare. The industries that will be impacted positively with this technology include computer-aided design companies, hospitals and insurance companies saving on expenses related to transplant logistics, stem cell
storage and harvesting. The industries that will be negatively impacted include dialysis centers, companies that manufacture pacemakers and heart valves, organ-replacement logistics and transportation.