Interview with Dimension Inx CEO Caralynn Collens

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The future of regenerative dentistry: “Cells alone are not proving to be enough to provide lasting, curative treatments”

New treatments in dentistry are already being developed that rebuild human tissue from the cell up. (Image: 18percentgrey/Shutterstock)

Being able to not only customise treatment plans but provide bioidentical implants to patients is a dream that may not be too far off considering the technology biomaterials platform Dimension Inx has built to create therapeutic products that enable an entirely new approach to tissue regeneration. To learn more about the potential of bioprinting, Dental Tribune International reached out to co-founder and CEO Dr Caralynn Collens about the company’s first product for dental application and the future of custom printed tissues.

Dr Caralynn Collens. (Image: Dimension Inx)

Dr Collens, for our clinicians who have never even heard of bioprinting, could you share a bit about its purpose in medicine and what Dimension Inx seeks to accomplish in the field?
Bioprinting traditionally refers to a form of additive manufacturing that combines 3D printing with cells, growth factors and/or other biomaterials instead of conventional metals and plastics to create structures that imitate natural tissues of the body. These structures can advance various medical applications, including 3D cell culture research, drug discovery and development, and regenerative medicine, including dental and periodontal.

Contrary to this traditional approach to bioprinting, Dimension Inx was created to design, develop and manufacture therapeutic products that restore tissue and organ function without the requirement of cell incorporation into the printing process. Our material-centric approach generates novel biomaterials that leverage the body’s natural ability to restore and establish functionality to address a variety of clinical applications. Furthermore, our entire printing process is performed at room temperature, creating acellular structures that are easy to ship and store and enable off-the-shelf, ready-to-use products.

“Dimension Inx was created to design, develop and manufacture therapeutic products that restore tissue and organ function without the requirement of cell incorporation into the printing process.” 

How has the biomaterials field changed in the last decade? What does Dimension Inx hope to achieve within the next ten years?
The traditional view of biomaterials focuses primarily on a material’s capacity to provide physical support and enable passive tissue growth. Over the past ten years, however, this mentality has shifted towards creating biomaterials that positively interact with their surrounding environment to promote new, healthy tissue formation. Many such efforts rely on physically and/or chemically modifying the surfaces of materials produced using established manufacturing methods. This approach can generate products with improved performance compared with their bio-inert counterparts, but it cannot unlock their full regenerative potential. To achieve this end, you must engineer biomaterial compositions that better emulate native tissue structure to produce biologically relevant microenvironments.

We employ our proprietary processes to create novel biomaterials with unique, physiologically relevant microstructures that offer a 3D blueprint to direct cells to behave as intended. Products printed with our platform enable a broad range of therapeutic applications. Over the next ten years, we expect to leverage our unique capabilities and establish ourselves as a market leader of innovative engineered tissue therapeutics for a large range of indications for significant clinical need, including Type 1 diabetes and fertility preservation.

We employ our proprietary processes to create novel biomaterials with unique, physiologically relevant microstructures that offer a 3D blueprint to direct cells to behave as intended.

What Dimension Inx projects could apply to dentistry, and why should a dental clinician or researcher look into your company?
We recently received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearance for CMFlex, the first 3D-printed regenerative bone grafting product cleared by the FDA. As a ready-to-use flexible ceramic for use in periodontal, oral and maxillofacial surgery, CMFlex offers a unique alternative to the current standard practices of dental bone grafting, such as autograft, allograft and xenograft. It is a synthetic material primarily composed of hydroxyapatite, a natural mineral found in bones and widely used in medical devices.

CMFlex is a safe and effective option for bone grafting, as it eliminates the need for painful and invasive procedures like autograft, which involves harvesting bone from another part of the patient’s body, and is then shaped and sized by the clinician to match the defect site. Additionally, unlike allograft and xenograft, CMFlex does not contain any animal or human components, eliminating the risk of disease transmission. Its distinctive microstructure is designed for high absorbency, rapid vascularisation, angiogenesis and tissue integration. Although CMFlex is currently approved for human use only in the US, dental clinicians and researchers interested in utilising advanced synthetic biomaterials in their practice should explore its benefits.

CMFlex, the first 3D-printed regenerative bone grafting product cleared by the FDA, is a ready-to-use flexible ceramic for use in periodontal or oral and maxillofacial surgery. (Image: Dimension Inx)

How did you get started in the field, and what advice would you offer to an organisation or clinician who would like to explore the potential of biomaterials?
Prior to Dimension Inx, I had operated in the advanced manufacturing space for several years. I was the chair of the board of directors and senior adviser to MxD (Manufacturing x Digital). MxD was launched as an independent organisation in early 2019, originating from UI Labs, where I served as CEO and board director from 2014 to 2019. However, it wasn’t until I joined Dimension Inx as CEO in 2019 to build and advance its therapeutic portfolio that I explicitly entered the bioprinting arena. I was particularly impressed by the company’s material-centric approach to designing novel biomaterials and therapeutic products that can be easily adapted to address a variety of clinical applications. Furthermore, Dimension Inx’s patented platform enables us to develop unique solutions that have the right mix of characteristics to optimise bio-functionality without sacrificing usability or manufacturability.

Any organisation or clinician interested in further exploring the potential of biomaterials should contact us. CMFlex may already meet their needs. In any case, we’d love to learn more about their interests to see if we could be helpful.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
There is a growing realisation in the field of cell and gene therapy that cells alone are not proving to be enough to provide lasting, curative treatments. The local cell environment, or microenvironment, plays an essential role in cellular behaviour and, in the case of therapeutic approaches, therapeutic efficacy. Biomaterial-based approaches can be used to create implantable microenvironments for cell-based therapies that allow us to replace or repair damaged biological functions inside of the human body in a way not previously possible.

Editorial note:

Dr Caralynn Collens is passionate about building teams and organisations that harness technology to drive transformational change and improve the quality of people’s lives. After starting her first company while a joint MD and MBA student at the University of Illinois Chicago in the US, she spent her early career in venture capital and corporate finance, primarily focused on technology-based university spin-offs. Prior to her current position as CEO of Dimension Inx, she was co-founder and CEO of UI Labs, a first-of-its-kind technology organisation focused on the digital future of industries. She earned her BS with honours from Northwestern University in Evanston in Illinois. More information can be found at www.dimensioninx.com.

This interview was published in 3D printing—international magazine of dental printing technology vol. 3, issue 2/2023.

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