Nora Touré: Stephanie, Could you let us know briefly about your background and your journey into Additive Manufacturing?
Stephanie Willerth: I am a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria where I run an internationally recognized research group that investigates novel ways of engineering tissues using stem cells.
We have been using a variety of bioprinters in combination with our novel bioinks to produce human tissue models from stem cells.
Our work in Additive Manufacturing started with a collaboration with Aspect Biosystems – a Vancouver-based bioprinting company – in 2016. Since then, our work in this area has really taken off as our team has made significant advances in bioprinting human neural tissue models for drug screening.
Our collaboration with Aspect Biosystems was awarded the University of Victoria’s REACH Award for Excellence in Research Partnerships in 2020.
Nora Touré: Can you share more about the Centre for Biomedical Research and the Biomedical Engineering program?
Stephanie Willerth: I currently direct our undergraduate Biomedical Engineering program here at the University of Victoria. I was also the founding director of this program when it started in 2012.
The program allows students to combine a passion for biology and engineering while gaining practical hands-on skills. We currently offer a popular class in 3D bioprinting human tissues.
The Centre for Biomedical Research promoted health-related research at the University of Victoria – we hosted events like the Victoria Health Hackathon where the community would come together to solve challenges from the health authority and the Café Scientifique series – where scientists and engineers give lay versions of their talks to the general public.
Nora Touré: To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
Stephanie Willerth: My team has made amazing progress in bioprinting functional neural tissues from human stem cells. Our tissues replicate some of the functionality seen in vivo, making them a potential tool for drug screening.
Here are some links to our work that is open access in case readers want to learn more:
Nora Touré: Do you have any (fun or not) stories about your career to share with us?
Stephanie Willerth: Starting a spin-off company (Axolotl Biosciences) has been an exciting journey.
My co-founders (Laura de la Vega and Laila Abelseth) are amazing, and our entire team is dedicated to making 3D bioprinting human tissues accessible to a wide variety of users. It has also been fun running my research lab over the past 10 years and being able to mentor so many students who have gone onto great things.
Read the rest at Women in 3D Printing