O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
Technological change happens gradually, then suddenly. So does opportunity.
Gradually, over the past decade, New Hampshire has been building the premier global hub for the emerging biofabrication and regenerative medicine industry. In other words: a new industry devoted to manufacturing cells, tissue, and organs that can revolutionize healthcare outcomes and quality of life for the better. And it’s happening right here.
Consider just a few of the 21 new companies from across the U.S. – including here in New Hampshire – that we heard from in the Manchester Millyard on Oct. 18 at the first-ever Biofab Startup Lab Investors Summit, which was hosted by the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, which Dean Kamen founded in 2017.
New businesses highlighting their work at the NH BioFab Startup Lab are building curative therapies for:
- Type 1 Diabetes: Eradicating injections and pumps for some T1 diabetic patients via donor-derived islet cells, implanted on a 3D-printed synthetic polymer mesh, to replenish insulin naturally in your body.
- Heart failure: Re-muscularizing acutely failing heart muscle via transplanted muscle cells grown from pluripotent stem cells.
- Parkinson’s & neurological conditions: Parkinson — addressing autologous cell replacement therapy (ie: your own healthy cells, grown to be more, and re-implanted) for neurological conditions.
- Chronic incontinence: Fixing chronic incontinence with a new organic sphincter grown from your own cells.
- Blood manufacturing: Creating manufactured red blood cells to augment/replace blood banks
- Vision loss: Treating retinal disease and age-related macular degeneration vision loss with bioengineered subretinal implants which can halt, or even restore, vision in some patients.
- Future curative therapies: Developing nonembryonic (trophoblast) stem cells for further regenerative curative therapies.
These are not ideas on a whiteboard. Many of these companies are years into their work and research – many with positive results – and most are in Phase 1 trials with active therapies in small numbers of patients today. Most have raised millions of dollars each for their science, research and business development.
Revolutionary science means progress that sometimes feels like huge leaps forward, sometimes moves at a snail’s pace, and sometimes can even feel like one step forward and two steps back. The first heart transplant in 1967 was performed by Christiaan Barnard, and his patient survived only a few weeks. Decades later, tens of thousands of hearts have been transplanted. The technologies and therapies being developed today are pushing the boundaries of science and life.
Hand in hand with the science, new public-private partnership work among scientists, founders, investors, academic leaders, public officials, planners and community leaders in New Hampshire is building the foundation for not just a new industry, but one which will support thriving communities, create thousands of family-sustaining jobs and expand opportunity in our region. It’s not enough to create new science; success means ensuring that progress is measured in breaking down barriers, building our workforce, and investing in our community.
The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute is a pioneering nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating the large-scale manufacturing of engineered tissues and tissue-related technologies. As part of the Manufacturing USA network, ARMI operates under the BioFabUSA program, a collaborative initiative designed to advance the field of regenerative medicine.
This innovative endeavor has garnered significant backing from the U.S. Department of Defense, reflecting the department’s commitment to fostering public-private partnerships that can yield breakthroughs in medical treatments, especially for the benefit of wounded servicemen and women. Through ARMI and its affiliates, the DoD aims to position the U.S. at the forefront of transformative tissue engineering advancements. This is exactly the type of collaboration that started Silicon Valley with the development of semiconductors in the 1960s.
Just as the scientists and startups are building new curative therapies, so too are community leaders meeting regularly to map out and build new factories; study and improve our transportation systems; and develop new educational, training, and career development programs from K-12 to college and non-degree workers, and more.
Fueled by a $44 million Build Back Better grant to the region awarded last year, this work is underway today – and it’s creating new infrastructure like the very Startup Lab that hosted the Oct. 18 summit.
Suddenly, the rest of the nation is noticing. On Oct. 23, Southern New Hampshire’s “ReGen Valley” (which extends from Manchester’s Millyard through Nashua along the Merrimack River) was named by the U.S. Department of Commerce as one of just 31 “Tech Hubs” in the nation vital to our national security and global competitiveness, beating out hundreds of other regional applicants across the country. This important designation brings more focus, more impact, and can bring more economic development funding into our state.
In the story of this emerging industry, we are in the earliest of innings. But from the startups that shared their progress at the investors’ summit to the new regional designation awarded on Oct. 23, Southern New Hampshire is already putting points on the board.
Originally published in the NH Business Review.
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.