A tour of ARMI/BioFabUSA's headquarters in Manchester, N.H. during the organization's launch in July 2017. (Photo: ARMI/BioFabUSA)
The University of Vermont has joined the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) through its BioFabUSA program. ARMI is a non-profit, federally sponsored consortium dedicated to making the large-scale manufacture of engineered tissues and tissue-related technologies practical, to benefit existing industries and grow new ones.
ARMI is one of 14 sites under the federal umbrella of Manufacturing USA and the Department of Defense focused on catalyzing specific and promising advanced manufacturing technology areas.
Composed of leading higher education institutions and corporations, ranging from large multi-nationals to start-ups, ARMI/BioFabUSA is located in Manchester, N.H.
Regenerative medicine translates fundamental knowledge in biology, chemistry and physics into materials, devices, systems and a variety of therapeutic strategies that augment, repair, replace or regenerate organs and tissues.
While great strides have been made in research, practical, large scale manufacturing in regenerative medicine has lagged.
“Regenerative medicine as a field is on the verge of transforming the treatment of disease and disability, as the research breakthroughs of the past decade move into the world of practical medicine,” said Richard Galbraith, vice president for research at UVM. “Our membership in ARMI/BioFabUSA both recognizes UVM as a leader in this rapidly emerging area and provides an opportunity for the university to advance even further.”
“The academic and commercial R&D community has done a tremendous job driving innovation in the field of regenerative medicine,” said Gray Chynoweth, chief membership officer at ARMI/BioFabUSA. “Now it is time to move from bench and clinical scale to commercial scale manufacturing. New and different types of talent and expertise are needed for this transition to succeed. We are thrilled that UVM will be joining forces with us to support this transition and develop this talent pipeline.”
Universities are eligible to join ARMI/BioFabUSA if their research and teaching programs make them a good fit for the organization, Galbraith said.
UVM has strength in regenerative medicine, where the university is developing a multi-disciplinary program focused on basic science, commercialization, entrepreneurship and biotechnology training under the leadership of Daniel Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, and Jeffrey Spees, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine. The university also has a robust biomedical engineering program. An undergraduate degree program in that discipline, under the leadership of Jason Bates, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor of medicine, and Jeff Frolik, Ph.D., professor of engineering, recently joined existing masters and doctoral degree programs.
Faculty grant program
A key element of the ARMI/BioFabUSA mission is to support basic and applied research in regenerative medicine through an ongoing grant program that members are eligible to apply for. The organization has $80 million in funding it will disperse to consortium members over seven years.
ARMI/BioFabUSA has issued its first call for projects for 2018. Interested faculty should submit a letter of intent no later than February 13 at 5 p.m. For more information, contact Hilda Alajajian in the Sponsored Projects Administration.
In addition to research, ARMI/BioFabUSA is also focused on workforce development designed to create a new generation of employees to fill skilled, high paying jobs in regenerative medicine that barely exist today.
For the universities that are part of ARMI/BioFabUSA, Galbraith said, that represents a rare opportunity for students.
“The ARMI/BioFabUSA ecosystem of companies will give our students exceptional networking, internship and employment opportunities,” he said. “And the connections our faculty make with corporations in the consortium will provide us an early-stage understanding of market needs that has the potential to translate to new curriculum and give UVM graduates a significant competitive edge in the marketplace.”
ARMI/BioFabUSA will also offer workshops in technical innovation, research funding opportunities and workforce development that UVM faculty and staff can participate in.
ARMI brings together a consortium of nearly 100 partners from across industry, government, academia and the non-profit sector to develop next-generation manufacturing processes and technologies for cells, tissues and organs. ARMI will work to organize the current fragmented domestic capabilities in tissue biofabrication technology to better position the U.S. relative to global competition. For more information on ARMI, please visit www.ARMIUSA.org.