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University Tissue, Cell Fabrication Lab Set to Open

3-D bioprinter

3-D bioprinter producing muscle tissue (U.S. Army Medicine, Flickr)

29 June 2018. A laboratory for producing new types of biomaterials is scheduled to open next year on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. The Biomaker Lab, an undertaking of the university’s Materials Research Lab and medical school is funded by a grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, although the dollar amount of the gift was not disclosed. In 2017, the trust awarded some $487,000 to the university to support development of a biofabrication laboratory.

The Biomaker Lab is expected to provide a facility for researchers to design bio-based materials from individual cells to full-scale organs that meet specific criteria and conditions to solve complex medical problems. The university says the lab is the world’s first interdisciplinary biofabrication center, which will enable materials scientists and non-specialists to study advanced biological materials and produce prototypes of individual cells, tissue samples, and organs.

“Recent advances in biofabrication are now yielding devices for high-throughput cell culture, organs-on-a-chip for drug screening, and 3-D printing technologies for creating tissues and organs,” says Irfan Ahmad, director of interdisciplinary engineering initiatives, in a university statement. “As these revolutionary advances come of age, it is imperative to incorporate these technologies into our research facilities now.”

The Biomaker Lab is a joint project of Illinois’s Materials Research Lab, or MRL, and the university’s medical school. The Materials Research Lab is already an interdisciplinary research site including materials science, physics, and chemistry. The Biomaker Lab is also expected to provide cell- and tissue-engineering research capabilities for scientists under the medical school’s Medical Maker Lab. The new lab is expected to open for researchers in early 2019.

“The BioMaker Lab at the MRL,” says MRL director Paul Braun, “will greatly enhance the capability for research groups across campus to carry out research on advanced biological materials and access the tremendous suite of characterization capabilities available within the MRL for this research.”

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust in Muscatine, Iowa supports educational, scientific, and community initiatives mainly in Iowa and Illinois. In 2017, the trust awarded some $8.1 million for medical and scientific research to three institutions: University of Illinois, Iowa State University in Ames, and University of Iowa in Iowa City.

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