Mellissa McIntyre and Preeti Sulibhavi of R&D Tax Savers examine J&J’s participation in the 3D printing industry.
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is ranked 37th in the Fortune 500 companies for the year 2018. J&J is headquartered in New Brunswick, New Jersey with around 250 subsidiary companies in 60 different countries, and products being sold in 175 countries. J&J is known for medical devices and consumer products such as Band-Aid and Neutrogena skin and beauty products.
In an effort to foster innovation, the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies’ collaboration with rising businesses has centered on enhancing healthcare solutions utilizing 3D printing technologies. In recent years, 3D printing has made its way into the healthcare world with advancements in 3D printing of complex structures with higher resolution. J&J strongly believes in the potential of 3D printing.
Research and Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
New or improved products, processes, or software
Technological in nature
Elimination of uncertainty
Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
J&J 3D Printing Center of Excellence
Johnson & Johnson established the 3D Printing Center of Excellence Collaborative Laboratory on the campus of the University of Miami in order to enhance a collaborative learning effort. The laboratory provides access to a variety of 3D printers and similar equipment with full-time engineers or scientists available to faculty and students for training. There is equipment for powder characterization and particle size analysis. This provides a location for collaborative research and learning about a new technology that will help to change the way that engineering is taught at universities with a focus in 3D printing as one of the emerging technologies that have the most potential.
Sam Onukuri, head of the J&J 3D Printing Center of Excellence, is a mechanical engineer with a specialty in metallurgy, a branch of materials science and engineering studying the behavior and properties of metals. Onukuri announced a plan for a titanium alloy implant for cancer patients suffering from bone degradation beginning in late 2017. In discussing the potential of 3D printing technology, Onukuri described the possibility of tablets with 3D printing sensors to account for non-compliance in older patients which send notifications to the physician stating that the patient is taking the prescribed medication.
Sam Onukuri and Joseph Sendra, global president for manufacturing, engineering, and technology at J&J, have visited the General Electric Healthcare advanced manufacturing lab. The lab has advanced 3D printers and other advanced technology. Sendra stated that 3D printing has the potential to move more products with faster turnaround in J&J’s manufacturing operations.
3D bioprinting is the process of combining 3D printing technology and tissue engineering techniques which include growth factors, cells, and biomaterials to fabricate biomedical parts to imitate the natural tissue characteristics. The process begins with pre-bioprinting, which is where the model is created and the materials are chosen based on a biopsy of the organ. Common technologies used for this process are computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These imaging techniques provide the layer-by-layer information required to model the organ using tomographic reconstruction. The cells are isolated and multiplied according to the image with a material that provides oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Next, the organ tissue is printed using tissue taken from the patient and cultivated into a “bio-ink”, which is a mixture of cells and biomaterials that mimic the environment of the extracellular matrix. The bio-ink is deposited with some organic bio-degradable collagen scaffold to hold the structure of the cells, although this scaffold is not always necessary. Following inherent biological functions, the cells adhere in their appropriate location.
Advanced Materials and Bioengineering Research (AMBER)
AMBER is a science institute located at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and funded by the Science Foundation Ireland. AMBER collaborated with Johnson & Johnson to set up a 3D bioprinting laboratory. The research lab is focusing on bioprinting to fabricate tissues and organs to imitate natural characteristics. AMBER is a collaborative learning laboratory available to students and other Principal Investigators which will expose students to 3D bioprinting early on.
J&J and Carbon
Recently, Johnson & Johnson partnered with Carbon in order to produce custom surgical devices. Their goal is to make these devices patient-specific within a matter of minutes, compared to the hours that this solution would previously take. Carbon hopes to leverage its Digital Light Synthesis technology which will be used to develop patient-specific medical devices. This collaboration will enable Carbon to move away from the traditional methods of injection molding and instead move to create a software-enabled design and fabrication methods.
J&J and DePuy Synthes Companies
Acquired by J&J in 1988, DePuy Synthes Companies is an orthopedic specialized branch of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. On September 12, 2018 this business sector acquired the 3D printing company Emerging Implant Technologies (EIT), specializing in spinal implants. This acquisition enables DuPuy Synthes to enhance its comprehensive inter-body implant portfolio which includes expandable inter-body devices. Titanium integrated PEEK technologies are 3D printed titanium for both minimally invasive and open-spinal surgeries. Prior to the acquisition of EIT, Depuy Synthes Companies also acquired the 3D print technology of Tissue Regeneration Systems in order to support the development of patient-specific implants. This acquisition is among many that are aimed at integrating new 3D printing technology into the personalization of healthcare for patients with orthopedic and craniomaxillofacial deformities.
TRUMATCH Titanium 3D Printed Implants
TRUMATCH Titanium 3D Printed Implants, by the Depuy Synthes Companies, is a product line that provides implants intended for facial reconstruction orthoganthic surgery, distraction, and cranial reconstruction. This product features virtual surgical planning using ProPlan CMF as a software interface for the transfer of images from CT or MRI. It is used for simulating and modeling the implant placement and treatment options. This imaging and planning method helps reduce surgery duration. It also serves as a place to visualize and compare the preoperative plan and the postoperative results. Most importantly, this implant package is patient-specific.
Titanium 3D Printing
Titanium 3D printing has become a popular solution for creating titanium alloy implants as the titanium is biocompatible and has a high strength to density ratio making it ideal for bone fusing implants. Titanium 3D printing is made possible by the technique of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). Previous methods such as stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS) worked on simpler materials such as plastic, glass or ceramic. DMLS acts on a dense powder melting to form a solid complex structure.
DMLS allows for deep groves and cooling channels necessary for injection molding, cavities and freeform structures. The mechanical properties of the device are stronger due to the fusing of the whole structure as it is being created. The production is more accurate, yielding 50 microns of accuracy. Not only is titanium a strong, corrosion-resistant metal, but it has also been tested to be biocompatible and a bio-adhesive, making it ideal for implants and other uses inside the human body.
Continuing advancements in 3D printing technology provides major growth opportunities in the medical device industry. This technology, particularly bioprinting and titanium 3D printing, have the potential to revolutionize the medical device industry, as patient specificity is extremely important for improving the success rates of medical procedures. The incorporation of 3D printing also makes these companies excellent candidates for R&D tax incentives.