Poietis, human biological tissues at your fingertips

Will we soon be able to 3D print human tissue and implant it in patients? This dream is beginning to materialize in Bordeaux, in the premises of the start-up Poietis – in Greek: “the one who creates, who transforms ideas into reality”.
It all started in 2005 in the laboratory of an Inserm researcher, Fabien Guillemot. His team is tasked with examining the opportunities offered by laser-assisted bioprinting. There are then only a few specialists on the subject still in its infancy. Four years later, the International Bioprinting Congress will bring together barely sixty. But in 2006, the team developed a first machine, a prototype in partnership with a local manufacturer specializing in lasers for micro-machining. In 2008, a new track appeared. "We are starting to talk about the interest of 3D printing for our field of research", says Fabien Guillemot. The idea would be to apply layer by layer of the constituents of biological tissues according to organizations predefined by digital design. The researcher is committed to involving clinicians in his work. The most interested at the time were the dentists, fond of possible solutions for the repair of bone tissue. A thesis is being conducted on the manufacture of cellular engineering products that allow this repair. The team continued its research and filed a patent in 2010 to protect these first results, in partnership with the University of Bordeaux.

From laboratory to start-up: competitions, market studies and American trip
Several elements will then compete to get this innovation out of the Inserm laboratories and allow the creation of a company. The first factor is a competition organized by the University of Bordeaux to identify technologies to promote. Fabien Guillemot's team is the winner and receives funding that allows it to conduct market research. “I didn't yet have any intentions of starting a business, but I was wondering about possible outlets,” he says. The market study reveals the possibility of manufacturing in vitro cellular models for industrial R&D, particularly in the cosmetics field. Subject to new regulations strictly governing animal testing, companies in this sector are looking for new ways to conduct skin tests. The use of industrially produced biological tissue interests them.
The second accelerating factor is cultural and entrepreneurial shock. Invited to Harvard University, Fabien Guillemot spent six months in the United States. “I became aware of two things: on the one hand, returning to the French academic sphere was going to be difficult after having lived in a laboratory where the means were without comparison; on the other hand, the technology we had developed held up well against what existed elsewhere,” he points out. Third founding element, the young shoot is the winner of the national competition of the Ministry of Research in the emergence phase. It benefits from additional resources and is hosted in the Aquitaine regional incubator. Poietis was officially founded in 2014 by Fabien Guillemot and Bruno Brisson, a former biotechnology consultant. The program for the future is rather busy. “We wanted to develop the first products, establish partnerships with cosmetic and pharmaceutical firms, and of course continue to develop the technology to develop a new generation industrial printer,” says Fabien Guillemot.

A new industrial property strategy
Poietis had obtained the exclusive exploitation of the first patent of 2010, that is to say the possibility of designing and distributing printers using the technology protected by this patent. Between 2012 and 2014, a second generation of machines was developed, and two new patents were filed by INSERM and the University of Bordeaux on the technical innovations made compared to the first generation. Poietis has the exclusive license, in all areas of application and worldwide. “Bioprinting is a field that is still emerging and where survival depends on intellectual property,” remarks Fabien Guillemot. Since 2014, four new patents have been filed by Poietis, including one in partnership with SATT Aquitaine, the technology transfer acceleration company in the Aquitaine region. “These patents, the fruit of a year and a half of work, include many elements: laser process, equipment, software bricks. It is likely that we will split them later,” remarks technical director Bertrand Viellerobe. It must be said that laser-assisted bioprinting involves several major steps: first, a digital file describing the architecture of biological tissues is produced by CAD (computer-aided design). Then the printer is programmed; 3D printing of the fabrics is then done by layer-by-layer deposition of micro-drops of biological inks. The bioprinted fabric enters a maturation phase, before being used to assess the toxicity or effectiveness of therapeutic molecules or cosmetic ingredients. The advantage of laser bioprinting is that it allows much greater precision than extrusion bioprinting (with microsyringes), the other technology currently used by 90% of market players. “We have the ability to print single-cell, i.e. cell-by-cell, with very high resolution, which makes it possible to manufacture tissue in a reproductive way, in complete safety, and to control much more precisely what we do, emphasizes Fabien Guillemot. Our ambition is to standardize the manufacture of biological tissues. »

The virtuous circle of innovation
The secret of this creativity? “The multidisciplinary nature of our teams! he replies without hesitation. Among the company's 22 employees, there are biologists as well as software developers, specialists in optics and mechanics. "To bring together these experts, we have set up an organization and project management in agile mode", he continues. Biologists raise possible problems of use and validate technological developments. This feedback promotes a virtuous circle of innovation. At the same time, the company is pursuing more fundamental research work, linked to its DNA.

Objective: heal!
While Poietis' first customers are, as expected, cosmetics companies, the team has set itself an ambitious goal in the long term: to ensure that the technology can be used in the clinical field. In other words, that tissues can be implanted in humans, for example for skin grafts. “We hope to be able to organize the first clinical trials on humans in five years”, announces Fabien Guillemot. A promise that could revolutionize the lives of many patients.