If you need an example of the global reach of HP Inc's inkjet printing technology, just think about the millions — if not billions — of color photos that can be found in homes around the world.
Now the decades-old technology — developed at HP's Corvallis campus — is being used on the cutting edge of the global battle to find a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The HP D300e BioPrinter is supplying researchers in the United States, Spain, France and Italy with the ability to dispense uniform droplets of pharmaceutical samples in experiments, from a dozen to thousands of samples. The uniformity of the droplets increases test reliability, and the speed at which the materials can be applied greatly reduces labor costs in the race to end the pandemic.
“Imagine a desktop printer that is printing a family photo,” said Annette Friskopp, global head and general manager of specialty printing systems for HP. “We take for granted how many small droplets of ink land on that paper. Now we have the capability of printing tiny, exact droplets of pharmaceuticals.”
The technology is supported by staff at the HP campus in Corvallis.
“We are inspired by the research being conducted by laboratories worldwide to better understand the pandemic,” Friskopp said. “If the HP D300e BioPrinter in the hands of these scientists can help accelerate their drug and vaccine research, it’s our responsibility to step forward and dedicate resources and technology to make it happen.”
Each printer is valued at about $30,000, and HP is also providing ancillary supplies and training.
Printers are going to the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid; the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston; the Monoclonal Antibody Discovery Laboratory in Siena, Italy; and the Grenoble Alpes University Hospital in Grenoble, France.
The printers are capable of repeatedly delivering droplets of materials about one-10th the width of a human hair, so researchers can rely on accurate and uniform standards, whether they are preparing 10 or 1,000 test samples.
“Before, to get the right amount of fluid onto testing materials, a researcher would have to use a pipette. Now, with this printer, they can produce the exact amount of solution, time after time,” Friskopp said. “In addition to being so accurate, there is a huge labor and time savings. And the printer requires minimal maintenance.”
Christie Dudenhoefer, HP life science dispensing manager, said researchers were invited to submit an online application to receive one of the printers.
“We set up an application form online and promoted it among our worldwide partners,” Dudenhoefer said. “Our team evaluated the applications, and then we had phone interviews to determine which programs may have the best fit.”
HP will also provide online training for each printer.
“We like to stay in close touch with our customers, and we will stay in touch with researchers,” said Erica Squires, an HP applications scientist. “We can help them design and set up new experiments.”
Here’s how the printers will be used:
• The Spanish National Research Council will use the printer to investigate how the spiked protein of COVID-19 reacts in the population most at risk of infections including health care professionals, security forces and the elderly.
• The Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling is developing antiviral drugs and prophylactic vaccines for COVID-19. Research is also focusing on developing a drug screening platform for the virus.
• The Monoclonal Antibody Discovery Laboratory will be used to accelerate testing the potency of antibodies against COVID-19.
• The Grenoble Alpes University Hospital will use the printer to automate the screening of infected individuals’ sera for neutralizing antibodies.
The bioprinter donations are a continuation of HP’s commitment to help communities affected by the pandemic. HP has donated $8 million in technology, grants and support, as well as produced more than 3.3 million 3D-printed parts for face shields, respirators, nasal swabs and other items for hospitals.
Other organizations using the D300e BioPrinter include Oregon State University; SRI Biosciences, which is working to develop a drug to fight COVID-19; Gilead, which is testing a new antiviral drug; and Merck, which used the printer to cross-titrate 100 to 200 compounds while limiting total compound volume required for the experiment.
Friskopp said she is “really proud of the work the Corvallis team is doing. The engineering happens there and the manufacturing of supplies happens there.”
To learn more about the HP D300e BioPrinter, visit https://www8.hp.com/us/en/commercial-printers/specialty-printing-systems/d300.html.
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