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Collaboration Aimed at Automating Manufacturing of Regenerative Medicine Therapies

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Dec., 9, 2011 When it comes to manufacturing tissues and organs to cure disease and save lives, regenerative medicine is just like any other industry where automation, quality and efficiency are keys to success. That’s why Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine is teaming up with North Carolina State University’s Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering with the goal of applying the latest advances in industrial engineering to the new field of regenerative medicine.

“The institute’s expertise is in the science behind engineering replacement tissues and organs,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “Our colleagues at NC State are experts in manufacturing and automation. In this partnership, they’ll help us optimize the manufacturing process of replacement tissues, just as they’ve done for the defense, automotive, textile and consumer product industries.”

As one of the first engineering programs in the world to work closely to with a regenerative medicine research group to systemically examine manufacturing and automation issues, the goal is to become a recognized leader in research and development of industrial and systems engineering solutions for the growing field of regenerative medical products. Regenerative medicine, which has been called the “next evolution of medical treatments” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the science of creating living, functional tissue to repair or completely replace damaged tissue or organs in patients. 

Patients are already benefiting from such lab-engineered tissues as skin, cartilage, bladders, blood vessels, urine tubes and tracheas. The goal of the collaboration is not only to increase the number and quality of organs produced, but also open the door for the manufacturing of more difficult-to-produce organs such as kidneys and livers.

“One priority will be to reduce the cost of regenerative medicine by creating formal engineering models for manufacturing,” said Paul H. Cohen, Ph.D., Woolard Distinguished Professor and head of the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at NC State. “We will define the production requirements for tissues and organs and then design production systems that can produce living tissue safely, efficiently and affordably.”

The institutions will work collaboratively to assess, document and understand the current state-of–the-art for regenerative medicine manufacturing. Under the agreement, three students from NC State are working at the Institute to focus on the manufacturing aspects of a cell treatment for incontinence, engineering cartilage on a human ear implant and a system to stretch and grow skin in the lab for burn victims.

Defining the production system requirements will include analyzing such areas as flow patterns, processes, materials and U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations in order to propose new concepts for manufacturing.

Lead faculty on the project are James J. Yoo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chief scientific officer at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Richard A. Wysk, Ph.D., Dopaco Distinguished Professor at the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

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