David Gobel on Printing a Medical Revolution

We live in a time of accelerating change, the opening decades of a biotechnology revolution driven by rapid growth in communications and computing power. A single laboratory can achieve in months today what would have taken years and much of the research community twenty years ago. New capabilities in medicine are demonstrated in the laboratory with ever increasing frequency, and hidebound institutions that presently try to enforce extremely long development cycles for new treatments cannot survive for much longer - not when valuable potential applications of new medical technology pile up ever higher year after year. There is a broad world out there, and new therapies will be commercially developed in those regions that smooth the way rather than throwing up barriers to rapid innovation - and these new therapies will in due course include the first practical treatments to repair some of the causes of degenerative aging.

David Gobel is co-founder and CEO of the Methuselah Foundation, an organization that has influenced many of the most important changes in the culture and progress of longevity science over the past decade. He sees tissue engineering as an important engine in the years ahead, bioprinting especially, with the ultimate goal of generating patient-matched new organs from scratch as needed. This is a part of the acceleration of progress in biotechnology and its application to medicine, and Gobel made that point in this post to the Gerontology Research Group list:

Gentlemen, a single scribe would labor for 20 years to produce a single cathedral worthy Bible - his life's work - if he lived that long. We live in the scribal age of medicine where solutions take 20 years to achieve. The printing press reduced 20 years to 20 months, 20 days, hours, minutes, seconds, etc, etc. What we now actually have is a new printing press for micro and macro tissues such that profoundly confounding structures might be reduced and reproduced at will, in perfection and in such quantity as to make costs 17 years hence a mere trifle comparatively.

When we became first investor in Organovo, this was our vision. New parts for people. Simple, direct, engineering, we may not know in detail why it all works, but work it does (so far). In December we with the advice and support of our science advisors launched the $1,000,000 New Organ Liver Prize. This year we are investigating with our partners two additional prize challenges on bioengineering hearts and preserving whole organs. Methuselah also offers $500,000 to qualified fearless tissue engineering researchers to secure access to one of Organovo's printers as well as training, support, startup funds and supplies. We are as they say "all in" on this hand.

Till now, medical research reminds one of 16th century alchemy seeking the elixir of life by error and trials. It is time for a biological industrial revolution where the body and bodies of humanity itself are the direct beneficiary. We do indeed believe that 3D tissue printing will make major contributions to extending healthy lifespan by accelerating and improving toxicology models, pathology models, replacement tissues, and finally new organs. We expect that such advances will begin this very year with toxicology models, and that advances will accelerate and a new industry arise such that by 2018 (we hope) and 2021 (feel certain) that large and complex macro tissue systems will be available for experimental insertion and use in large mammals.

Shortly thereafter it is our hope that the SENS portfolio and similar efforts in rejuvenation will begin to come on stream to repair the molecular damage of our decaying selves. SENS is a firebreak for our futures.

You might recall that SENS research programs were first funded and organized under the Methuselah Foundation umbrella before the SENS Research Foundation launched as an independent organization back in 2009.


We can only hope.

Posted by: Ian at February 25th, 2014 2:07 AM

This sounds wildly, insanely optimistic. Sorry, but that just isn't going to happen. Technology moves at a snail's pace, especially medical technology. There's no way we're going to see bioprinted organs by 2021.

Sorry, but you're just going to have to come to terms with your mortality.

Posted by: JustAPerson at February 25th, 2014 4:44 PM

Sorry JustAPerson, but you're just going to have to come to terms with your ignorance.

You sound wildly, insanely pessimistic. Sorry, but this is going to happen. Technology moves at an ever faster pace; to believe that we won't see printed organs in animal trials by 2021 (as stated above) is to confuse the pace of technological advance with the issues of the current regulatory environment. Such ignorance is understandable but in the age of ubiquitous web access, unforgivable.

Posted by: Mark at March 1st, 2014 7:25 AM

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