Korea-based biotech startup Plcoskin is set to lead an international joint research project focused on developing a new type of 3D printed breast implant.
Together with Yonsei University and LipoCoat, a Netherlands-based medical device coating company, Plcoskin will receive approximately 2B won ($1.7M) over the next three years. The funding will be provided by Eurostar 2, an international joint technology development program run by the European Commission and the secretariat of ‘Eureka’, a European joint R&D network.
Woo-yeol Baek, CEO of Plcoskin, said, “With this joint R&D, we will further develop artificial implant manufacturing technology with LipoCoat, a leading company in lipid film coating technology in the Netherlands, and PCL-collagen coating technology based on Plcoskin’s 3D printing.”
Mastectomies and breast reconstruction
According to the World Health Organization, 2.3 million women worldwide were diagnosed with breast cancer last year. As the world’s most prevalent cancer in women, breast cancer is responsible for almost 700,000 deaths every year.
Most breast cancer patients end up having to undergo a mastectomy, a procedure that involves either partial or full removal of the affected breast tissue. Thanks to the power of modern-day oncology, however, survival rates are greater than 90%, meaning more and more women are seeking breast reconstruction treatments to replace the lost soft tissue.
Many of these breast reconstruction surgeries involve using a soft artificial implant in the shape of a breast, but with 3D printing technology, the implants can be further personalized according to the needs of the patient.
A PCL-based biodegradable breast implant
Since its founding in 2017, Plcoskin has focused entirely on researching and developing artificial implants, fillers, and prostheses for regenerative medicine applications. Just last year, the company was dubbed a ‘promising overseas bio company’ by the Seoul Industry Promotion Agency (SBA) and is currently in the process of domestic approval. The firm is also preparing for US FDA and European CE MDR approval next year.
Plcoskin’s latest joint research project aims to develop a 3D printed polycaprolactone (PCL)-based biodegradable breast implant coated in PCL-collagen and lipid films. Leveraging the Eurostar 2 funding, the firm has stated plans to target the overseas regenerative medicine market.
LipoCoat’s contribution to the project is the provision of a patented bio-coating technology, which is designed to improve implant infection rates while reducing post-op discomfort. On the other hand, Yonsei University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering is on board to help out with the lab-based research work.
A company spokesperson said, “We are researching with Yonsei University to create a complex soft tissue that goes beyond the limits of existing regenerative treatment.”
Plcoskin also has its own pharmaceutical cosmetics brand called YOULIEF, which currently offers seven different skincare products through several online and offline channels. YOULIEF’s product portfolio, which includes toners and creams, was developed in collaboration with the John Hopkins School of Medicine and Maryland Institute College of Art.
This certainly isn’t the first time additive manufacturing has been used for breast cancer treatments, beyond just 3D printed implants. Last month, 3D printer manufacturer 3D Systems announced a co-development agreement with CollPlant, a regenerative medicine firm, to develop 3D bioprinted soft tissue structures for breast reconstruction treatments. Implemented in conjunction with a breast implant, the soft tissue structures will be used to provide support for the lower breast and expand the implant pocket, increasing the overall coverage of the implant.
Elsewhere, researchers at North Carolina State University have previously utilized 3D printing to develop more comfortable radiation-receiving antennas for cancer patients to wear during microwave breast hyperthermia procedures. Compared to mainstream radiotherapy gear, the team’s flexible receiver is less bulky and can be printed according to the anatomy of the patient.
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Featured image shows Yonsei University campus. Photo via Yonsei University.