Research is the Focus: Bioprinting, Biofabrication and 3D Bioprinting

By: Dr. Deborah Sliver, Karen Bemis and Sue Weston

3D bioprinting is transforming life sciences. Using human bioprinted tissue in preclinical testing will improve drug discovery and eliminate the need for animal testing for cosmetics. Work is well underway on bioprinted artificial organs with the kidney expected to be first, and a heart is less than 20 years away. Bioprinting began in 2008 producing biotubing similar to a blood vessel, and in 2010 the first blood vessels were printed using cells cultured from a single person. Applications extend to plant cells called green bioprinting which will impact the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic industries. By 2024, the global 3D bioprinting market is projected to be worth $2.6 billion.

What are the jobs? Jobs in bioprinting and biofabrication are predominately research based.  The majority of jobs were created by universities and hospitals, which accounted for 44% positions in 2018 and 60% in 2017. The number of advertised positions remains relatively low (140 positions in 2018 and 170 in 2017). Advertised roles are targeting a highly educated applicant, with 42% of positions requesting a doctoral degree, and 93% requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, which is consistent with the focus on research.

Common employers and job titles by Industry

We looked at the advertised programs of study, and while there is overlap in the educational specializations, knowledge of biomedical and bioengineering was a constant, requested on 89% of positions. 

  • 86% of positions requested a degree in bioengineering/biomedical engineering
  • 15% computer science
  • 12% chemistry

Bioprinting and biofabrication require cross-disciplinary collaboration between, technology, engineering, and digital disciplines. Related skills include: 

  • biomedical engineering – 33% of jobs
  • 3D printing / additive manufacturing (AM) – 29%
  • tissue engineering – 27%
  • cell culturing – 23%
  • biomaterials or biology – 22%
  • bioprinters or biotechnology – 19%

To provide a flavor for the types of work, we extracted wording from several job descriptions:

  1. We are harnessing the power of design, biology, and engineering to produce biofabricated leather materials.
  2. Seeking a Laboratory Technician with organic or analytical chemistry experience to support a fast-paced design team in the development, testing, and troubleshooting of 3D printers. The right person will be responsible for performing laboratory duties assisting engineers and scientists in the development of materials for a new 3D bioprinter. 
  3. Developing new and improving existing tissue engineering/bioprinting techniques to guide treatments by better modeling the tumor microenvironment, but a diversity of interests in cancer biology is necessary to excel.
  4. Organ Manufacturing program seeks to expand its team with a software engineer with the knowledge and capability to build cutting-edge generative software for organ scaffold 3D bioprinting.  

Advances in ​bioprinting and biofabrication will shape the future. Bacterial cellulose biofabricated nanofibers outperform conventional synthetic materials and will have applications in the food and cosmetics industries. The pharmaceutical industry will expand bioprinting of pills, which can provide dosages customized for each patients’ individual needs. Research and discovery are producing new prototypes such as a bionic eye and bioprinting antibiotics. These technologies are continuing to improve, providing better accuracy and lower costs.  

If you are interested in learning more Rutgers offers: 

Biofabrication Fundamentals: Biomaterials, 3D Bioprinting and Cell Culture 16:137:60    This class uses an interactive,hands-on format and provides multidisciplinary skills needed for design thinking and design innovation for applications of bioprinting in prototyping, biotechnology, biomedical, healthcare, personal care, cosmetics, textiles, and food sciences.

Methodology:

This blog analyzes jobs advertised between August 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018, using a tool called Labor Insight from Burning Glass Technologies. By mining the detailed information stored in job postings, we can determine what employers are looking for when they fill roles in bioprinting. The positions were selected based on having a job title containing the words: bioprinting, 3D bioprinting and biofabrication. 

While this analysis can show trends in the job market, there are limitations. We only included jobs advertised online. The unstructured nature of job ads can make it difficult for the system to identify individual pieces of information effectively in some cases. While Labor Insight breaks up the job description into fields for analysis, inconsistency in the formatting of job descriptions and industry-specific terminology or titles may result in the inclusion of some irrelevant jobs.