Projects corner: CreOrgans, Guido Frigieri interview

We launch our new Projects corner, a place where we make visible scientific projects that comes from academy to becom start ups! This time coinciding with the topic of this newsletter, bioprinting, we interview Guido Frigieri, co-Founder of a start up focused in this field, called CreOrgans. We are not going to spend more time and we are going to go with the first question, so get’s started!

First of all, Guido, we need to understand a little bit more about the topic Bioprinting. Please describe Bioprinting for a person you meet in the street.

Bioprinting is a process that uses a technology similar to 3D printing, in which a file is used as a project to print an object layer by layer. But unlike 3D printing, where the material used is usually plastic, bioprinters use cells and biomaterials, forming structures that mimic human tissues.

Okey, I think it is something very disruptive, interesting and I am thinking that it will have a lot application. But imagine, now that you meet a possible custumer or investor, interested in this technology in which you are working in your start up. Please pitch your start up in 1 minute, here we go with the elevator pitch!

CreOrgans develops bioprinters for the construction of three dimensional cellularized structures, obtained in physiological conditions suitable for their maintenance and study.

And please, explain me the problem you are solving…

The problem is that over 90% of drugs that exceed pre-clinical fail during animal and / or human trials. The techniques currently used are 2D, and therefore not faithfully reproduce morphology and composition of human tissues. This does not provide predictive and efficient data on the effectiveness and safety of drug, but we want to speed up the process of approving drugs and drastically reduce their costs by developing more predictive tests that can identify toxic or inactive drugs before they are subjected to clinical trials.

And… What is your added value proposal as an start up?
We as a startup aim to build high quality, accurate and reliable 3D bioprinters. We want to use them to support researchers in every phase of their job, by giving them new tools that best suit their particular needs.

I think it will also useful to reduce costs in biopharma companies, that’s nice. And in your opinion what is the current state of the art of this technology?

The greatest importance of bioprinting lies in the resulting tissue-like structures that mimic the micro and macro environment of human tissues and organs.
Some of the main application areas of bioprinting are bone tissue regeneration as well as prosthetics and dental applications, but also the development of tissues for pharmaceutical testing with the potential, for example, to drastically reduce time, costs and the need for animal trials. Organ replacement is the main objective, but tissue repair is also possible in the meantime. With bioink, it’s much easier to solve problems on a patient-specific level, promoting simpler operations.

Mmmm awesome! It is very interesting. By the way, I started asking you about your company and a definition of bioprinting, but I want to understand why did you decide to work on bioprinting?

We wanted to speed up the process of approving drugs and drastically reduce their costs by developing more predictive tests that can identify toxic or inactive drugs before they are subjected to clinical trials.

And something a little bit more personal, why and when did you choose to be an entrepreneur?
At the beginning of the last year of the course in Biotechnology, I felt the need to concretize and strengthen my relationship with companies, outside the academic sphere. I decided to join LinkedIn, I went to courses and lectures on entrepreneurship, and then for fun I started to build what is now our business idea.

And what is the most important strategic decision you’ve made so far?

In the business world (in particular in the startup one), you have to be flexible, almost amorphous, you have to constantly evolve: the turnover of companies is so fast that whoever doesn’t change is bound to collapse.

Hahaha, I remember Mr. Bruce Lee, saying “be water my friend”. And please, to offer an example to our life sciences scientist, what is the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding business?

My advice is: “don’t listen to any advice”. What’s wrong for some may be right for you, what is obvious for some can be brilliant for others. The essential things are perseverance and the need to study and keep abreast.

Mmmm interesting advice, I think we need to pay attention a little bit more about it. Possible someone will need advices to be focused and find his/her way, possible not, we open the debate. But… Now, regarding challenges and future preparation, returning to your start up, what are your milestones in the short term?
Our very first prototype of bioprinter is coming out soon. That will be our first achievement and we’re looking forward to see how well will it work. In the meantime, we will have the great chance of participating to the biggest event for startups and entrepreneurship in Italy, which is called “Startup Day 2019”. It will be a great chance to find other people interested in our project and ready to work with us.

And I think I am going to do a very deep question now, how do you guarantee your work/life balance?
Finding the right balance between work and life is a big problem in the early stage of every startup, you are right about it is a deep question. But it’s not always that simple since our work comes from our private passions and so it’s really a part of our lives. That being said, I believe that every startupper has to find his/her rhythm day-by-day, it’s something that requires a lot of time to be figured out.

I think that there was a moment, that setting up a start up was a very flexible job regarding you can freely choose your working hours. It is right?
Yes, certain. While it may seem a great advantage over other types of jobs it also means that you have to organize your work entirely by yourself, which is a big responsibility you need to take over. (I assure you that I sleep only few hours at night)

And how important is travelling in your job? Because having a business possible it means you have to meet a lot of people, other projects, etc. And for this reason I think you have to travel, right?
The three founders of CreOrgans live at least 100 kilometers far from each other, so travelling is already part of our job. As for now – since our project is in its early stage – we’ve never had to travel for any reason other than to meet together, but we are perfectly aware that in the near future we will need to travel more to bring our ideas (and our bioprinters too!) directly to the people that need them more: the researchers. This is why travelling will soon become a very important factor in our job.

I think that if every team member is in a different region it could be very nice, to make new contacts by the way. Nice… So… Now we are going to become creative about the future and I want to ask you if you could, what would you like to bioprint next? Any crazy ideas?
The most ambitious project we are evaluating is the use of pancreatic cells for the bioprinting of insulin-producing structures, in order to create a vascularized tissue similar in morphology and composition to the pancreatic one.

And what about the YEBN? What would you wish to do together with YEBN and its community in the future?

I would like, through the help of YEBN, to concretize and strengthen the relationship with the new entrepreneurial realities, forming the Biotechnologists also on the entrepreneurial, managerial and administrative side, which is essential in my opinion.

Personally I think it is very necessary to transfer all the content that is being generated in the university and transform it into valuable solutions to bring to the society. I think we have work to do, are you agree?

Of course

Then, Mr, Frigieri, we have arrived to the point to finish this interview. I want to thank you in the name of the YEBN for your time, and I hope we could do a very interesting collaborations together in the upcoming months!

Okey, thank you for this time and opportunity to spread our ideas!

See you very soon! And always remember: get inspired and get involved!