Photo courtesy of TeVido BioDevices.
Bosworth says while the decision to apply the bioprinting process to breast reconstruction was initially based on market analysis and figures, she quickly became emotionally involved upon hearing women’s stories of struggles with reconstruction. “It’s not a very well-known fact that the reconstructive outcomes are not very good,” Bosworth says. “I think that there’s a lack of awareness. Cancer survivors feel like it’s not something they can complain about very much, but the reality is every day, a woman gets up and looks in her mirror. If she doesn’t feel good about how she looks, that really colors her day and life.” Bosworth co-founded TeVido in 2011 with Dr. Thomas Boland, a biomedical engineer at the University of Texas at El Paso. The two met while she was serving as an entrepreneurial advisor to the engineering department at her alma mater. Bosworth and her small lab team in Austin are now working to use Boland’s technology to eventually print custom nipples using a woman’s own cells. By meeting with plastic surgeons, Bosworth discovered the little-known shortcomings of the current reconstructive options, which include issues with breast symmetry and nipple appearance. “When they’re talking to me, I can just tell that they’re frustrated,” Bosworth says of plastic surgeons specializing in postmastectomy reconstruction. “[They] hate that they can’t just tell the woman how [the reconstruction] is going to look.” Currently, nipple reconstructions take place months after a breast-reconstruction procedure, and the results are often unpredictable. The skin can be cut and pinched into a nipple shape, but the size and shape change as time passes. For coloring, tattoos can be added, but they often fade quickly for light skin tones. TeVido’s ingenious 3-D printed creations would provide a stable, predictable result streamlined into one surgical procedure. Bosworth’s own career, during which she’s had her hand in everything from engineering and product development, finances and
marketing, gave her the wide expertise to stay involved in every area of business at TeVido. On a tour of the TeVido lab, which looks more like a house or small dentist office from the outside, Bosworth can tell the story of each repurposed piece of furniture and lab equipment. “When you start doing your own startup, you don’t have any money, you can’t really pay for any help and you pretty much have to do everything yourself,” Bosworth says. “I kind of crack up sometimes when people will contact me and they’ll be like, ‘Who’s your PR group?’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, well, that’s me.’ ” Bosworth says she developed an entrepreneurial spirit early on in her career by taking on jobs that she didn’t necessarily have the experience for, as well as moving between different fields. “It’s a very interesting thing that women tend to not go after those types of jobs,” Bosworth says. “I think that risk taking emboldened me quite a bit to be comfortable moving into spaces where you don’t know all the answers.” Her bold business sense, matched with more than 25 years of experience in the industry, led Bosworth to co-found Avinde, a program that helps female entrepreneurs launch their own major companies. At first, Bosworth says, she was skeptical as to whether all-female programs were necessary, but her mind quickly changed after working one on one with women. “After really watching their confidence and interactions change and improve, I became a believer in women’s-only training environments,” she says. Looking forward, Bosworth hopes to push TeVido bioprinted nipples into clinical trials within two years. Her ambition to expedite the process is evident when she speaks of the practically endless arenas in which bioprinting can expand, for example, using the process in wound care and cosmetic plastic surgery. A name formed by mixing the Spanish words for tissue (tejido) and for life (vida), TeVido is on its way to revamping the way breasts are reconstructed and given new life postmastectomy. And with Bosworth at the helm of the company, the future of bioprinting looks more promising than ever.
Straight From the Source: Insight From Laura Bosworth, CEO of TeVido BioDevices When she thinks true bioprinting will take off “It’s still five to 10 years away. True bioprinting, the recreation of living cells and tissues, is still in the clinical-trial phase. Cartilage or skin might be in clinical [trials] in the next year or two, but clinical trials take two to three years and then the approval process takes another year. Revenue [won’t be seen for] five years.” The issue she faces most often in her business “Our greatest challenge isn’t the bioprinter. It’s that we are bringing a biomedical product to market that requires clinical trial. That requires more funding than, say, a software app.” On the support shown for TeVido “We have quite a bit of funding from federal grants. We have about $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, as well as funding from other areas, like the Livestrong Foundation. There are not many investors in Texas that focus on life-science companies. It takes a little more work to find them.” The most rewarding aspect of her job “When I talk to the women who have gone through reconstruction and are not happy with their result, they are just so excited by the opportunity and by the idea that they can have a better solution. Imagine, as a woman, every day, you are getting dressed and you are missing your breast or your nipple, and it’s not something you can ever really forget. It’s really rewarding to be working in that space, knowing that we can improve people’s quality of life. “Of course, beyond breast cancer, there is an estimated 1 percent of the world population that has some form of disfigurement so severe they don’t want to interact with society. So, the idea that we can be working on products that give these people a new outlook and alleviate their suffering is pretty fantastic.” On what’s next “[The nipples] are our first product. They’re not available yet, but we hope to be in clinical trial in two years. We haven’t decided what our second product is going to be. There are a lot of things around treating someone who has been [scarred] from a car accident or faces pigmentation challenges from burns. The list is quite long of the potential things we can treat.”
DID YOU KNOW? r 3-D bioprinters have grown to expand outside of tissue engineering. More than 10 million 3-D printed hearing aids are circulated worldwide, and 3-D printing is used in dentistry to create dental implants, crowns, veneers, orthodontic devices and more. 3-D printing market-research company Smartech predicts by 2020, the market for 3-D printed dental products will reach $3.1 billion, and sales for bioprinters are forecasted to reach $480 million.
r Surgeons can use CT scans and 3-D printers to create an exact replica of what a tumor might look like on a kidney or recreate another organ so they can look inside it to pinpoint the location and the extent of the damage they need to repair before surgery.
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