The health care industry saw more advancements in the past year than it has in the previous decades. Supply chains were disrupted as demands for new treatments and materials emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This gave rise to innovations that enhanced the delivery of health services and improved the quality of life for patients. Among the many technologies that experienced unprecedented growth in health care are 3D printing and bioprinting.
3D Printing and Bioprinting Defined
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three-dimensional objects based on a digital design. It uses raw materials such as plastics or powdered metals, laying them down in thin layers and fusing these layers together.
Bioprinting works in the same manner except that living cells (such as stem cells) and biocompatible materials are used. These biologically acceptable materials, known as bioinks, provide structural support to the resulting construct.
3D Bioprinting Pre-Pandemic
3D bioprinting is nothing new and has been around for over three decades. It has seen many uses in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Hollow or thin tissues such as blood vessels and parts that do not need a blood supply, such as cartilage, have been bioprinted successfully.
The technology has also been used to create tissue models that can help fast-track the testing of candidate drugs. In the field of cancer research, bioprinting offers a method to make clinically relevant observations using three-dimensional tumor models.
Bioprinting in the Past Year
The potential of bioprinting in food production was demonstrated in the past year with the advent of 3D-printed biomeat. Biomeat was grown in the laboratory, starting in the petri dish as a broth of animal cells, amino acids, and carbohydrates. Given enough time, the cells multiplied into a mass of meat, which was then bioprinted into the world’s first lab-produced chicken nugget.
In Canada, a prototype device was developed by researchers to treat patients with severe burns. Currently in its 10th iteration, the hand-held bioprinter applies a bioink of stem cells in stripes until a uniform layer is formed over the injured area. With this treatment, tissue regeneration is encouraged, and the scarring is reduced.
Bioprinting will also prove helpful in understanding the COVID-19 virus and creating ways to combat it. Using this technology, human tissue models can be made and used to study the effects of the virus on the human body. The effects of treatment agents and techniques can similarly be tested.
And, of course, the race to develop organ replacements to treat those who are severely affected by the virus still continues.
Researchers in Sweden have designed a new bioink material that enables the bioprinting of small but human-sized airways with the help of patient cells. The resulting construct is biocompatible and supports the growth of new blood vessels, an important step toward treating chronic lung diseases and bioprinting organs.
3D Printing During the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the application of 3D printing, yielding breakthroughs in treatment methods. The technology was used to create adaptors that allowed BiPAP machines – used to treat obstructive sleep apnea and other similar conditions, to be converted into mechanical ventilators in case more are needed.
Another solution to the potential shortage of ventilators during the pandemic is the development of an apparatus that could be built in hospitals. They can be assembled from 3D-printed parts and low-cost springs within 8 to 10 hours. What is more, they will cost around US$10 only.
More Innovations in 3D Printing and Bioprinting with the SR&ED Program
3D printing and bioprinting seem like ideas straight out of sci-fi movies, but they are closer to reality than most people realize. In fact, the 3D bioprinting market is already expected to grow by almost $2 billion in the next two years.
Canada has some of the key players in the North American market and is among the leaders in expanding the technology. A big part of this is the proliferation of research and experimental development activities by pioneering companies in the country.
If you look closer, Canada’s collection of innovation grants and incentives is one of the key factors that make it a hotbed for R&D. At the heart of this is the Scientific Research and Experimental Development or SR&ED.
The SR&ED program is a tax incentive program delivered by the Canada Revenue Agency or CRA. It supports innovative businesses with a limited budget for research and development R&D activities, encouraging breakthroughs that could improve the lives of Canadians by providing tax incentives. SR&ED tax incentives can be accessed as an income tax deduction, an investment tax credit or ITC to reduce the income tax payable, or a refund for unused ITC.
How the SR&ED Program Can Expand 3D Printing and Bioprinting
The SR&ED program accepts claims from all Canadian companies with a SR&ED project that can advance 3D and bioprinting technologies.
Canadian controlled private corporations or CCPCs stand to earn up to 35% refundable SR&ED tax credit for the first $3 million in eligible costs. A non-refundable ITC of 15% is given for qualifying expenditures over $3 million.
CCPCs that also meet the CRA criteria for qualifying corporations can get an additional 15% ITC for eligible SR&ED costs over $3 million, 40% of which can be refunded.
Other corporations can earn a non-refundable ITC at a basic rate of 15%. Proprietorships, trusts, and members of a partnership can also apply for the SR&ED Program.
What Makes a Project Eligible for the SR&ED Program?
The Canada Revenue Agency asks five basic questions when determining a project’s eligibility for the SR&ED program:
1. Was there a scientific and technological uncertainty that current practices could not resolve?
2. Was a hypothesis designed to eliminate the uncertainty?
3. Was a systematic investigation adopted in the implementation of the hypothesis?
4. Did the process lead to scientific and technological advancements?
5. Were records kept as the work progressed?
If the project meets the above criteria, there is a good chance that it is eligible for the SR&ED Program. If you need help understanding the questions or assessing your eligibility, please talk to one of our funding specialists here at EVAMAX.
The SR&ED program is open to all Canadian businesses, including those in the 3D printing and bioprinting sectors. However, navigating the complex application process can be challenging, especially for first-time claimants. This is where we come in.
Call us now or schedule a consultation through our website and take the first step to innovation!