Radical Reads

The New Era of Life Sciences: Aspect Biosystems



Image: Aspect Biosystems: Aspect’s technology uses a multifunctional microfluidic print head capable of programmatically manipulating and sequencing multiple biomaterials, living cells, extracellular matrix content, growth factors, bioactive compounds and other bioinks ‘on the fly’ during tissue printing.

Radical Ventures portfolio company Aspect Biosystems is a biotechnology company pioneering a new category of regenerative medicine: bioprinted tissue therapeutics. The company’s cutting-edge technology prints implantable, cellular medicines, which have profound implications for unlocking treatment to incurable diseases. Last year, Aspect Biosystems partnered with Danish biopharma giant Novo Nordisk. The deal, worth over US$2.6 billion, marked the largest-ever deal in the bioprinting industry and the largest preclinical deal in Canada. This week we share an excerpt of an interview with Aspect Biosystems CEO Tamer Mohamed on the “The New Era of Life Sciences” and how AI will transform the future of therapeutics. 

How does your bioprinting technology differ from other bioprinting technologies? 

What we’ve created at Aspect is an industry-leading, full-stack tissue therapeutic platform that comprises our proprietary bioprinting technology, therapeutic cells, biomaterials, and computational design (i.e. AI). The end-to-end process starts with designing our tissues using our computational design tools, then processing and uniquely combining therapeutic cells and biomaterials using our highly flexible microfluidic bioprinting technology to biomanufacture the entire bioprinted tissue therapeutic product in a rapid, single step. These tissue therapeutics are then implanted into the body to provide a functional cure.  

We are not attempting to replicate full organs. Instead, our highly rational design approach is focused on replacing, restoring, or supplementing organ functions lost due to disease and implanting functional tissue therapeutics in remote locations in the body to deliver curative therapies. 

What approach does Aspect Biosystems take towards addressing diseases?

Our strategy involves using cells as building blocks, combined with our bioengineering design approach, to create functional tissues that can address the root causes of diseases. A prime example is our work on type 1 diabetes with Novo Nordisk, aiming to replace the missing function of cells responsible for sensing glucose and releasing insulin, without relying on chronic immune suppression. This innovative approach represents the next frontier in cell therapy, leveraging our tissue therapeutic platform to develop products that can significantly impact disease treatment.

What are the primary research areas for Aspect Biosystems, and how do you prioritize projects?

We prioritize diseases with well understood biology and where cells can have a direct impact on the disease biology. Our focus primarily lies on metabolic and endocrine diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and liver-related disorders. By understanding the disease biology and applying our full-stack tissue therapeutic platform, we aim to address specific malfunctions without the need for full organ transplants, showcasing our targeted and novel approach to regenerative medicine.

How important are partnerships and collaborations for Aspect Biosystems?

Collaborations are crucial for advancing our mission and leveraging our broadly applicable platform, as highlighted by our precedent-setting $2.6 billion partnership with Novo Nordisk, a leader in diabetes and obesity treatment. They bring a rich history and deep expertise in these disease areas and we are excited to have chosen them as our partner. Through such partnerships, we aim to leverage combined strengths to develop innovative treatments for patients and advance the field.

Has the direction of Aspect Biosystems changed, and what are the opportunities for expansion?

Aspect Biosystems is currently experiencing a period of strategic growth, focusing on expanding our therapeutic pipeline in the metabolic and endocrine space. 

Our partnership with Novo Nordisk has accelerated our growth, supporting our ambition to play a leading role within the ecosystem. This growth phase is marked by the pursuit of building a highly successful, enduring company that can act as an anchor in the Canadian and global biotech landscapes.

Why do you think Canada has lacked anchor companies, and how does Aspect Biosystems plan to change that?

The absence of anchor companies in Canada may stem from a historically cautious approach to ambition and innovation. We are determined to break this mold by leveraging our industry-leading platform across multiple disease areas and creating multiple product lines. We are vertically integrating and building for the long term. Our goal is to foster a bolder and more ambitious mindset that can elevate Canada’s status on the global stage, contribute significantly to the regenerative medicine sector, and bring solutions to the patients who need them.

Can Aspect Biosystems become an anchor company, and if so, when?

Absolutely, we are aiming to become a highly successful $100 billion anchor company here in Canada. That won’t happen overnight, but we are in it for the long-term. On our mission, we are committed to supporting the broader ecosystem – we strongly believe in the notion that the “rising tide lifts all boats”. We are deeply passionate about bringing significant value to a country that has been the source of so many great discoveries including insulin and stem cells. Quite simply, we are focused on not just pioneering the development of bioprinted tissue therapeutics, but driving this entirely new therapeutic category that we are shaping.

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Radical Reads is edited by Leah Morris (Senior Director, Velocity Program, Radical Ventures).