Ann Arbor-based 3D Biomatrix, a life sciences company spun out of the University of Michigan in 2010, announced this week that it has received a notice of allowance from the U.S. patent office for the technology behind its Perfecta3D hanging drop plates, which are used by researchers to grow cells in culture. The notice of allowance is the final step in the patent-issuance process; the patent is expected to be issued in six to eight weeks.
“There is more and more emerging technology coming out for 3D cell cultures,” says Laura Schrader, CEO of 3D Biomatrix. “Having a patent speaks to the fact that our technology is novel.”
3D Biomatrix is the brainchild of founder Nicholas Kotov, a U-M chemistry professor. Kotov created the world’s first artificial bone marrow that could grow stem cells. In the course of his research, Kotov discovered that the three-dimensional structure of bone marrow cells is crucial to their inter-cellular communication. Perhaps, Kotov surmised, that might explain why scientists were having such a hard time growing stem cells in 2D petri dishes.
Traditionally, researchers have tested drug compounds that affect cell growth in flat, 2D cell cultures. Schrader says the plates offer more accurate results by mimicking the cellular environment in a human body.
For instance, a cancer researcher trying to develop a tumor-shrinking drug can use 3D drop plates to grow a 3D microtumor for testing instead of using a flat layer of cells. Testing cells in a flat dish can result in false readings because the cells react differently than they would in a 3D structure. In addition to producing better results, Schrader says testing compounds in a 3D structure can save time and money.
Schrader says the notice of allowance caps a period of validation for the company. Last March, 3D Biomatrix was honored by Europe’s National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research for contributing technology that leads to the reduction of animals in research. In October 2012, 3D Biomatrix was selected as runner-up in the medicine and biotech category in the 2012 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards.
3D Biomatrix also raised $740,000 in new investment last year from undisclosed investors; Schrader says the company is done raising money for the time being. Instead, 3D Biomatrix is focused on growing its patent portfolio and partnering with assay companies to create 3D assay kits. Additionally, the company is working with more than 30 distributors around the globe to get its product in the hands of researchers.
“It’s always great when last year was better than the year before,” Schrader adds. “We’re growing, and we’re seeing a lot of repeat customers.”
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