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Emerging markets in tissue engineering

Written by: Zach Stamp
Date: 11 February 2019

Tissue-engineered substrates like Axogen nerve-grafts and 3D-printed hydrogels have penetrated past the hype phase of the Garner hype cycle to the main market.  

Tissue-engineering and regenerative medicine are hot topics lately.  While the average person associates these therapies with idealistic sci-fi, the truth is that these therapies have exited controversial trial-and-error experimentation and are beginning to generate viable product lines.  In other words, they have made it past the hype and are beginning to yield.

While these two terms are often used interchangeably they are subtly different sciences.
Tissue-engineering is a biomaterials field where scaffolds, cells, and growth are combined to synthesize functional tissues which could be implanted in humans. Current innovation in this field is focused on experiments to determine the optimum ratios, substrates, and timelines to grow viable tissues.  This research is less fundamental and more experimental, often occurring in academia.

In contrast, regenerative medicine is a broader clinical field which includes tissue-engineering but also therapies to transplant or rejuvenate human tissues in situ.  Many of these therapies are already on the market in some form in the cosmetics or sports injury industries.  This research is more applied and occurs in industry, medicine, and academia. 

The tissue-engineering industry

Tissue-engineering is highly desirable because it escapes the ethical, autoimmune, and infectious dilemmas of transplanted tissues. Complex non-antigenic bioimplants could also disrupt more expensive and less effective medical industries like dialysis or prosthetic limbs.

The drawback with tissue-engineering has always been complexity. As Einstein is paraphrased as saying “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”.  

The reason we haven’t had tissue-engineered products in the past, is they are not simple to make. 

Biological tissues are grown over time, dynamic, and interdependent. As difficult as it is to expand and grow healthy tissue in a lab, viable lab-grown tissues must also be viable in the body.  When tissue is implanted it must be accepted by the immune system, integrate into vascular and lymphatic supplies, and then remodel appropriately with age.  

Despite the challenges, several revolutionary tissue-engineered products have been emerging onto the biotech and pharma markets.  Some examples of viable tissue-engineered therapies that are achieving clinical use and widespread scientific acceptance include:
Decellularized tissues such as Axogen’s Avance®  nerve grafts marketed for repair of transected or damaged nerves or DermACELL® skin replacements for burns.

Growth factors such as those eluted from Osiris’ Grafix® a placental membrane therapy marketed for the healing of chronic wounds
Implanted tissues such as Dr. Ivan Martin’s implanted cartilage grafts for knee arthritis 

What does this mean for recruitment?

Novel tissue-engineered products have the potential to replace human tissues previously thought irreplaceable such as nerve, bone, and cartilage.  Additionally,  therapies from tissue-engineering might also yield unexpected breakthroughs in the wider clinical and commercial fields of regenerative medicine.

Biotech and pharma would be well served to integrate tissue-engineering R&D into their portfolios because the field is poised for breakthroughs, and those breakthroughs are likely to disrupt established clinical markets. Experts in this field are valuable, and recruitment in this industry is at an all-time high.

Operating as part of the Phaidon International group, EPM Scientific is a specialist staffing agency, wholly focused on permanent & freelance recruitment within the life sciences sector.  

We are designed to enhance the connection between enterprise project management and recruitment services in complex drug & device development endeavors like tissue-engineering and regenerative medicine therapies. 

At EPM Scientific, we think holistically. We recruit the best talent to ensure superior medicines are available to patients and we believe in the positive evolution of human health. 

The right candidate for the right team takes skill and timing.  If you’re a hiring manager in pharma or biotech looking to extend your team with tissue engineering capacities,  or you’re a consultant with this expertise wishing to move into industry.  I’m happy to help you find the right fit.  Please feel free to reach out directly at zach.stamp@epmscientific.com.