From science fiction to reality: the dawn of the biofabricator

8:15AM | Monday, 31 August

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. - The Six Million Dollar Man, 1973 Science is catching up to science fiction. Last year a paralysed man walked again after cell treatment bridged a gap in his spinal cord. Dozens of people have had bionic eyes implanted, and it may also be possible to augment them to see into the infra-red or ultra-violet. Amputees can control bionic limb implant with thoughts alone.   Meanwhile, we are well on the road to printing body parts.   We are witnessing a reshaping of the clinical landscape wrought by the tools of technology. The transition is giving rise to a new breed of engineer, one trained to bridge the gap between engineering on one side and biology on the other.   Enter the “biofabricator”. This is a role that melds technical skills in materials, mechatronics and biology with the clinical sciences.   21st century career If you need a new body part, it’s the role of the biofabricator to build it for you. The concepts are new, the technology is groundbreaking. And the job description? It’s still being written.   It is a vocation that’s already taking off in the US though. In 2012, Forbes rated biomedical engineering (equivalent to biofabricator) number one on its list of the 15 most valuable college majors. The following year, CNN and called it the “best job in America”.   These conclusions were based on things like salary, job satisfaction and job prospects, with the US Bureau of Labour Statistics projecting a massive growth in the number of biomedical engineering jobs over the next ten years.   The Cochlear implant has brought hearing to many people. Dick Sijtsma/Flickr, CC BY-NC   Meanwhile, Australia is blazing its own trail. As the birthplace of the multi-channel Cochlear implant, Australia already boasts a worldwide reputation in biomedical implants. Recent clinical breakthroughs with an implanted titanium heel and jawbone reinforce Australia’s status as a leader in the field.   I’ve recently helped establish the world’s first international Masters courses for biofabrication, ready to arm the next generation of biofabricators with the diverse array of skills needed to 3D print parts for bodies.   These skills go beyond the technical; the job also requires the ability to communicate with regulators and work alongside clinicians. The emerging industry is challenging existing business models.   Life as a biofabricator Day to day, the biofabricator is a vital cog in the research machine. They work with clinicians to create a solution to clinical needs, and with biologists, materials and mechatronic engineers to deliver them.   Biofabricators are naturally versatile. They are able to discuss clinical needs pre-dawn, device physics with an electrical engineer in the morning, stem cell differentiation with a biologist in the afternoon and a potential financier in the evening. Not to mention remaining conscious of regulatory matters and social engagement.   Our research at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) is only made possible through the work of a talented team of biofabricators. They help with the conduits we are building to regrow severed nerves, to the electrical implant designed to sense an imminent epileptic seizure and stop it before it occurs, to the 3D printed cartilage and bone implants fashioned to be a perfect fit at the site of injury.   As the interdisciplinary network takes shape, we see more applications every week. Researchers have only scratched the surface of what is possible for wearable or implanted sensors to keep tabs on an outpatient’s vitals and beam them back to the doctor.   Meanwhile, stem cell technology is developing rapidly. Developing the cells into tissues and organs will require prearrangement of cells in appropriate 3D environments and custom designed bioreactors mimicking the dynamic environment inside the body.   Imagine the ability to arrange stem cells in 3D surrounded by other supporting cells and with growth factors distributed with exquisite precision throughout the structure, and to systematically probe the effect of those arrangements on biological processes. Well, it can already be done.   Those versed in 3D bioprinting will enable these fundamental explorations. Future visions   The 1970s TV show, Six Million Dollar Man, excited imaginations, but science is rapidly catching up to science fiction. Joe Haupt/Flickr, CC BY-SA   Besides academic research, biofabricators will also be invaluable to medical device companies in designing new products and treatments. Those engineers with an entrepreneurial spark will look to start spin-out companies of their own. The more traditional manufacturing business model will not cut it.   As 3D printing evolves, it is becoming obvious that we will require dedicated printing systems for particular clinical applications. The printer in the surgery for cartilage regeneration will be specifically engineered for the task at hand, with only critical variables built into a robust and reliable machine.   Appropriately trained individuals will also find roles in the public service, ideally in regulatory bodies or community engagement.   For this job of tomorrow, we must train today and new opportunities are emerging biofab-masters-degree. We must cut across the traditional academic boundaries that slow down such advances. We must engage with the community of traditional manufacturers that have skills that can be built upon for next generation industries.   Australia is also well placed to capitalise on these emerging industries. We have a traditional manufacturing sector that is currently in flux, an extensive advanced materials knowledge base built over decades, a dynamic additive fabrication skills base and a growing alternative business model environment.   Gordon Wallace is Executive Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science and Director of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute at University of Wollongong This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Silicon Valley “Startup Castle” ad for roommates ready for the “geometric scaling of success” goes viral

5:48AM | Friday, 15 May

Silicon Valley’s rental market is notoriously competitive, but a new ad for housemates for a “startup castle” that aspires to be a “community of excellence” has gone viral by taking that to a whole new level.   Prospective housemates are required to “prefer organized [sic] systems and common rules” and “like petting dogs”. Having a “degree or job with a strong math/science requirement”, exercising “at least 15 hours in a normal week” and commuting “by car less than 20% of the time” are also key requirements would-be housemates.   Far longer than the list of requirements is the list of things that are frowned upon by residents of the Startup Castle, who are keen on roommates who are focused on the “geometric scaling of success”.   These include having more than one tattoo, watching more than four hours of TV per week, having ever attended more than one protest, posting to social media more than three times a week, wearing make-up more than twice a week, or owning clothes worth more than $500.   You can't live in The Startup Castle if you have more than two tattoos, but if you connect them with a thin black Sharpie line you're good — The Startup Castle (@startupcastle) May 14, 2015   Among those barred from the Startup Castle are people who drink alcohol more than three times per week, use marijuana more than twice a year, have been prescribed anything by a psychiatrist more than once, or who have used any other drug more than twice in their entire lives.   Other big no-nos include having more than one internet app date per week, complex diets requiring lots of refrigerator space, having bills that get paid by somebody else, or listening to a song with explicit lyrics more than an once a day.   John Lakness, the “founder” of the Startup Castle, describes himself in the ad as a “data science consultant, Stanford ICME, former spec-ops fitness competitor”.   In an interview with CNN, Lakness denied any of the requirements – including the requirement not to wear make-up more than twice a week – are discriminatory.   “I don't think there's anything in the post that restricts intellectual or cultural diversity at all. [Sharing a common value system is] the type of diversity that we value and not so much the superficial diversity,” he said.   Meeting the long list of criteria earns you the right to a shared dormitory in Silicon Valley for the low price of $US1000 ($1243.65), with additional charges for “private bathrooms, car parking, and extra people”.   “I really think this is the best deal in Silicon Valley, but let me know if you think I'm wrong,” the ad states.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Pirate Bay online after two-month hiatus

2:42PM | Sunday, 1 February

Popular torrenting website Pirate Bay is back online, two months after its servers were raided by police in Stockholm.   While the site looks similar to how it did in December, moderators will no longer be able to access the site in an attempt to minimise the risk of it being shut down again according to Torrent Freak.   Swedish authorities raided Pirate Bay’s servers in December, targeting computers and other equipment.   The website has been operating since 2003 and has survived a number of high-profile attempts to shut it down. Snapchat launches weekly web series Snapchat has made the leap into the media production space with the launch of its own weekly web series.   The show – called Literally Can’t Even – will be released in five-minute segments and will star Steven Spielberg’s daughter, according to Fairfax.   Last week, the social media platform announced it was introducing a news and entertainment service with partnered organisations such as Vice and CNN. PayPal-backed marketing startup raises $1.2 million A marketing startup based in Menlo Park has raised $1.2 million in funding led by PayPal and customer science company Dunnhumby.   Pulsate is a contextual marketing platform that delivers content for brands based on a user’s location and preferences.   Chief executive Patrick Leddy said in a statement the funds will be used to accelerate product development and ramp-up brand awareness.   “We are already attracting a lot of customers in this space and with this support we look forward to becoming the industry leader in context marketing,” Leddy said. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 1.45%, falling 251.90 points to 17,164.95. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US77.77 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter introduces group messages and video editing features

1:31PM | Tuesday, 27 January

Twitter has announced it is rolling out a range of new features aimed at boosting public conversations on the platform.   Group messaging will now be available for the private message function, including for people who do not necessarily follow each other.   New! Use Direct Messages to speak privately with a group of up to 20 people. Share Tweets, show emoji & be yourself. — Twitter (@twitter) January 27, 2015   Users will also be able to capture, edit and share videos directly from the Twitter app in the same way that they can upload photos. Videos can be up to 30 seconds in length.   The new features will be available to users in the coming weeks.   Snapchat introduces news and entertainment service   Snapchat has launched a new feature aimed at selling ads and sharing content from news organisations such as Vice and CNN.   “Snapchat Discover is a new way to explore Stories from different editorial teams,” the company said in a blog post.   “It’s the result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first.”   Snapchat is currently valued at around $10 billion.   Fintech startup raises $1 million in seed funding   Credit card startup Final has raised $1 million in seed funding ahead of its 2015 pilot program.   TechCrunch reports the round was led by Ludlow Ventures, T5 Capital Partners, Y Combinator and other angel investors.   Founded a year ago, Final aims to give credit card users more transparency about their spending and eliminate the friction around having to cancel a card due to fraud or theft.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 1.62%, falling 287.22 points to 17,391.48. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US79 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Teen thinks he can save the US government $400m: A simple cost cutting strategy for startups

4:29AM | Tuesday, 1 April

Having a cash flow crisis or just looking to save a few dollars? One 14-year-old thinks he can show you how.   Suvir Mirchandani has uncovered a way for the US government to save $400 million, and it could help your business cut costs too.   The teen was thinking of ways to save money at his Pittsburgh-area middle school when, in a stroke of genius, he thought of an easy solution – switch to a new font.   Mirchandani calculated changing all federal US government documents from Times New Roman to Garamond would save $136 million a year.   Currently the US Government Services Administration spends $467 million a year on printing costs and if the state governments also switched, an additional $234 million could be saved.   Mirchandani discovered ink is two times more expensive by volume than expensive French perfume, and for a school project he collected samples of his school’s handouts and looked at the most commonly used letters (e, t, a o and r).   For a science project he looked at how the letters were used in four different typefaces, Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans, and measured how much ink was used for each letter using commercial software, before personally verifying his findings.   Mirchandani detailed this process to CNN and discovered using Garamond could reduce his school’s ink usage by 24% and save $21,000 annually.   While small businesses are unlikely to save hundreds of millions of dollars like the US government, it’s quite possible changing the font type of printed documents could save SMEs more than a thousand dollars annually.   Mirchandani is also hoping his research has a broader impact.   “Consumers are still printing at home, they can make this change too,” he told CNN. “I definitely would love to see some actual changes and I’d be happy to go as far as possible to make that change possible.”   But changing the font of printed documents might be a step behind the game, as reducing printing all together can help businesses save on printing costs, file cabinets and storage space.   Another simple change which can help businesses save money is to set up digital communication systems to hold client meetings over the internet.   By using programs like Skype and Webex, businesses can save on travel costs when communicating with staff or clients in other offices.

Five top business ideas that made millions

3:38AM | Thursday, 14 March

According to Paul Graham, investor and founder of Y Combinator, the best way to get a winning business idea is to not think of any. Instead, you should be looking at which problems you can solve.

Romney concedes, Barack Obama re-elected as US President

3:04AM | Monday, 11 March

Barack Obama has won another four years as president of the United States, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney conceding defeat.

Mention Mobile

9:45AM | Monday, 24 September

In just two years, the founder of Mention Mobile has partnered with an Emmy winner, secured funds from a billionaire and teamed up with a major games publisher.

Buffett awards Berkshire Hathaway stock to young entrepreneurs

7:07AM | Monday, 16 July

Billionaire speculator Warren Buffett has given away $13,000 worth of highly-prized shares in his company, Berkshire Hathaway, to a group of budding entrepreneurs aged under 16.

Aussie start-up Roboinvest makes global competition final

3:44AM | Friday, 15 March

Roboinvest, an Australian-run, New York-based start-up, has made the final of a worldwide funding competition for financial services ventures.

How billionaires live it up

12:13PM | Thursday, 1 December

The Eurozone may be in crisis, the US teetering on the brink of a double dip recession and even Australia struggling to get back to surplus, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of enormously wealthy entrepreneurs out there.