3D bioprinting is beginning the shift from pure research into applied research and the sale of commercial products, with Organovo officially selling its 3D printed liver assays and inking a deal with L’Oreal to develop 3D printed skin for cosmetic testing. Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble has, after taking on A.G. Lafley as their Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO and dropping about 100 brands, experienced a revitalization of their business, seeing stock prices steadily climb over the course of Lafley’s leadership. Perhaps spurred by the deal by their French cosmetics competitor, the company has decided to venture into bioprinting itself, launching a grant competition in Singapore for academics to propose research ventures relevant to P&G.
Through a partnership with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, P&G has launched the first grant in a five-year plan that will see S$60m (roughly $44m USD) go to scientific research. This allows any research institute in the country submit their proposals for a chance at developing bioprinting solutions for the multinational. And, by launching a grant competition, P&G can rely on academics already exploring the field, rather than developing their own program.
Professor Elena Lurie-Luke, the head of P&G’s Global Life Sciences Open Innovation, says of the field of bioprinting, “We want to look at the possibilities of bioprinting. It’s definitely a very strong emerging area.” She adds, “We have a number of different in vitro skin models we’re working on because we are very involved in beauty care. If companies are doing innovation and interested in new tools then bioprinting should very much be on their horizon.”
Like L’Oreal, P&G has faced criticism for the use of animal testing for 80% of the products in its portfolio, which includes everything from cosmetics to dish detergents, a much wider range of goods than the French cosmetics company. In 1999, after facing legal battles, the multinational banned animal testing for all products, but the 20% of food and drugs that require animal testing by law. Since then, it has engaged in the development of new techniques for testing products, such as a test tube-based skin allergy test. 3D bioprinting, then, would further allow the company to improve the research of toxic effects from its products.
The use of 3D printed skin, for instance, might allow the company to get more realistic information about the effects their products might have on the skin of their customers. The grant competition, then, is particularly important because the deal between Organovo and L’Oreal is exclusive, so that P&G cannot turn to the commercial frontrunner in bioprinting technology for use with their own products. 3D printed organ tissues would allow P&G to further explore the way their products might effect the organ systems of their customers, which could be useful for household cleaners as well as the company’s line of healthcare products, which currently include brands like Vicks, Prilosec, and Metamucil.
Though a multinational like P&G might consider exploring non-toxic, organic products to reduce the need for such extensive toxicity testing, the grant competition is likely to spur some groundbreaking research. With a company as big and powerful as P&G funding the research, we may see some pretty exciting results.