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Automating Tissue Manufacturing Will Save Lives

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Building an organ is way more sophisticated than the most complex product today.

But that doesn’t change this fact: You don’t depend on craftsmanship or artisanship in the process. You bring that same discipline, standards and metrics to this kind of manufacturing as you do to making soup or cookies or cars.

Soon we will be in a world where we can start to manufacture human tissue and organs at a high quality and a realistic cost, improving the quality of life for millions of people.

What will it take to move highly specialized regenerative medicine – engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues and organs – from lab to production?

Manufacturing scalability, process and partnership.

Mechanics Behind Manufacturing Organs

While it’s not unusual for science and manufacturing to work together, what we’re poised to do now is unlike anything we’ve done before.

For years people have been working to bridge the chasm between research and commercial production.

Our next breakthrough: Through automation, we will help provide artificially produced tissues and even whole organs to people with serious injuries or disease.

This changes lives.

As quickly as the possibilities are unfolding, the advances largely are still in the research mode. The good news: While the recipes are incredibly specialized, the process of regenerative medicine manufacturing looks a lot like something you’d see in the making of a craft beer: Automating the process, and using data and analytics to monitor and improve that process to create consistent, predictable results.

Instead of making beer or bread or antihistamines, you’re controlling the growth of human cells. 

Miracle Manufacturing

I had a chance to sit down with Dean Kamen, entrepreneur, inventor and founder of BioFab USA, to talk about the amazing creations happening in laboratories and universities around the world. Those creations have never been commercialized because there is no infrastructure to do so. That need was the spark behind the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). Its mission is to make it practical to mass produce human organs.

The sooner we make bio manufacturing processes predictable and replicable, the sooner we can offer life-saving advancements. 

Dean and I talked about what it will take to bring this process to scale through high-volume, high-quality automation, so we can take a miracle from a Petri dish and do for it what Detroit did for cars and Silicon Valley did for semiconductors.

Serving the Greater Good

Once you achieve scalability you can apply it to new skin, bones and nerves, to heart patches and almost anything else you can imagine.

I liken the future of bio manufacturing to food processing today. Imagine taking a family recipe for chicken soup, made a few dozen times a year, and scaling it up to where it can be mass produced and available in supermarkets around the world.

We need to take the beautiful creation biomedical PhDs are working on day and night, and scale the process so the miracle moves beyond the lab and into the world.

Addressing the Gaps

As far as we’ve come, there are gaps, and we’re working with ARMI to address those gaps to bring regenerative medicine to the masses.

From an engineering perspective, this is the future – leveraging technology and medicine for real, everyday applications that directly impact people.

This is work with a high purpose.

Join Dean and me as we dig deeper into this topic during my State of the Industry podcast, now available on Apple iTunes.

Dave Vasko
Dave Vasko
Director of Advanced Technology, Rockwell Automation

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