Market Insights

An Interview with Jemma Redmond, Founder of Ourobotics

I was fortunate enough to interview Jemma Redmond of Ourobotics based in Ireland around a variety of subjects, the challenges facing the bioprinting market, hardware trends and potential future applications. Watch the introduction video below and read on to learn more.

Can you give us a bit of background about yourself?

I have quite a varied background – electronic engineering initially at college, then I built my first robot with a simple neural net. I spent a lot of time playing around with computers and got into a little bit of trouble with computers. I then moved onto Aberdeen University to acquire my physics degree. I built and sold inventions, had side businesses, which I later sold to fund my education and to fund my bioprinting. I then went to work on my Masters in biosciences at University College Dublin in Ireland. For my thesis, I worked on printed fingers. This helped to develop the basis for my future research by learning the basics. I was investigating growing cells, and trying to ascertain the most efficient means of cell distribution and tissue generation. I then made copies of bones using fabrics to see if you can you grow the bone cells on the plastics.

What is the most exciting bioprinting development in the last year?

Cyfuse – Kenzan Needle Array is a beautifully simplistic solution to a complicated process.

Why aren’t we seeing inkjet bioprinters on the market?

I can’t see it printing multiple layers to a high level of detail. It’s difficult to autoclave/decontaminate the cartridges. Most bioprinters only use one technique. The analogy I tend to use is: “Do you need a hammer to build a house?” Yes, but you also need many tools and many materials. The same can be said about the complexity of bioprinting human tissues.

I saw in your Hardware Pioneers Q&A that you see potential synergies between printing electronics/sensors and bio-compatible tissues. What potential synergies do you see in this space moving forward?

There is no reason why you can’t. It’s just a case of using different materials. Why not amalgamate the two? Why not have something that is part alive and/or part electronic? Going forward, circuits/batteries could be made from biomaterials such as algae’s. We could use simple synthetic muscles instead of motors to give a wide range of natural movement. You could use simple circuits and lithography to create a level of intelligence with the machine. This could also have some interesting synergies with artificial intelligence.

Do you see potential applications in Bio-Photovoltaics?

There are definitely people working on BioBatteries. If you carbonize human hair you can make batteries from it. There is also a movement to make solar panels that can act like batteries or capacitors or all three. They could also all be biodegradable if required, which would likely have some consequences with regards to lifespan, efficiency etc.

I have noted in the past that devices like the microwave only started to become mainstream when they became cheaper and that was because certain components had become cheaper. If we can use hybrid 3d bioprinting technology to do this, it means we can make a wide range of more expensive elaborate machines cheaper and simpler.

How is the open-source renegade project coming along?

We are trying to help kick-start the open source community and provide a bit of assistance for innovation.

Do you see any significant scientific contributions from the DIY bioprinting community?

Definitely. One of the best ideas I have seen is from artists/designers and biohackers. I think once these machines are more widely accessible these types of individuals will approach problems in different ways to scientists. Perhaps with more uninhibited innovation, as they don’t always know what conventional methods they are able to achieve.

What synergies do you think there will be between bioprinting and gene editing?

I think the main driving factors with be regulatory requirements. I think that it would be quicker to create tissues not grown inside animals (used as bioreactors) because you are creating the structure for the tissue to grow within. Similar to a roadway, if the road is paved it’s much easier to travel than on a non-uniform gravel track. I think they both have their places. It allows you to work with the four required components: form, acceleration, mimic in vivo conditions, and control what you do or do not want to grow through gene editing. If you walk on a train the train goes forward, if you run with the train you are going faster because your speed is accumulative. Also, if you wanted to only grow or isolate one part of an organ, gene editing gives you the customizability.

Do you think it will be possible to bioprint in space?

I think it’s possible to print in space. We have proof of the concept of printing in a suspended sphere. We have also printed in liquid. I think that the application allow us to test the impacts of space travel etc. on human tissue without having to put human life at risk.


*Author’s Note: Unfortunately, since this interview, Jemma Redmond sadly and suddenly passed away. Out of respect, we decided not to publish this interview until the content was cleared with her colleagues. She had the most remarkable mind, saw future synergies in technology like nobody else I’ve met. In the few and short interactions I had with her she changed my perception of what is possible, as well as giving me a myriad of research to do. She was a true innovator and a massive loss to both industry and humanity on the whole. Her ideas and work will live on for generations to come.