Anna Finne Wistrand, Tiziana Fuoco, and Daniela Pappalardo are the 3 founders of Akira Science and our Women in 3D Printing guests #268.
Nora Touré: Could you let us know briefly about your background and your journey into Additive Manufacturing?
Anna: I am a chemical engineer who loves problem-solving, finding innovative solutions, especially within the material-medical field. After an MSc in chemical engineering and after a doctorate in polymer technology, I chose to leave the academy to work at Akzo Nobel.
However, the longing for basic research and the degradable polymers became too strong and I returned to KTH. The focus from my return to KTH has been to understand and improve how degradable materials influence the biological environment and also understand how the biological environment influences the polymers.
After a few years of research, I applied and got money from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research Foundation (SSF) to work part-time at a company that manufactures degradable medical mesh. It was an incredibly important experience where I gained expertise in how polymerisation, electrospinning, and knitting among other processes are performed in an industrial manner, and how extensive the regulatory work is.
This period also made me aware of several clinical problems for which there were no good solutions, the surgeons needed better materials and scaffolds and I started to believe that additive manufacturing could be one important method to use to achieve the needed scaffolds.
Now I am back full time at KTH as a professor and during the last 4 years, I have been running a large project, funded by SSF, where the goal is to develop a pliable degradable 3D printed prototype that can be used for soft tissue regeneration. Using the results from that project we started Akira Science AB.
Tiziana: I am a pure chemist. I studied fundamental chemistry because I wanted to make myself well-grounded in basic science, I felt the need to understand the fundamentals that regulate our world. I started with organic chemistry, building molecules from atoms, and then, during my PhD I moved to polymer chemistry, I learned how to build “bigger” and innovative macromolecules (polymers) from small molecules.
Now, I am a researcher in polymer technology and I am having fun building 3D objects from polymers, yet I am striving towards the path to a real impact of my research results.
3D printing is a paradigm of my professional path: a bottom-up approach towards a clear and concrete goal, yet allowing for specific design and complexity.
My ambition is to design new polymeric materials that can fit the need of new, advanced 3D printing technologies, and contribute to the development of more sustainable, tomorrow’s materials.
Daniela: I am also a pure chemist; after a degree in Chemistry, I did my PhD in the field of polymer chemistry, mainly polyolefins, the most diffuse commodities plastics. I was fascinated by the immense possibilities to create macromolecules having features and behavior so different from small, cheap, starting molecules. Catalysts and monomers were like a LEGO playground, where the fantasy of the chemist had no limitations.
Later on, driven by environmental and political consideration, my research interest was focused on degradable polymers, also derived by renewable resources, as the possible green alternative to fossil-fuel-based polymers. In this context, I was rapt by the potential biomedical applications of some of these materials and moved some time to KTH to do research in this direction.
From September 2014 to August 2017 I was a part-time guest researcher at KTH as a leader of the VINNOVA “Mobility for Growth” and Marie-Curie project “Biodegradable functionalized materials for applications in tissue engineering”. One of the aims of the project was the design of degradable polymers suitable for the preparation of scaffolds for tissue engineering applications by 3D printing.
In 2017 Anna was awarded a consistent research grant by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research SSF (Engineering 3D printed and knitted degradable scaffolds – PrintKnit), in this ambit the foundations for the 3D-printing company were laid, also on the base of 2 patent application (one of these is today allowed US patent). I am back in Italy, but continuing the collaboration with Anna and Tiziana in the ambit of Akira.
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