Ricoh brings bioprinting to new business with Baltimore biotechnology company

Tokyo, Japan-based Ricoh is taking a stake in Elixirgen Scientific, which specializes in stem cell technology. The new venture, launching this year, will look to improve efficiency in drug discovery.

Inside FastForward 1812, an East Baltimore-based incubator home that is based in East Baltimore.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

A Tokyo, Japan-based electronics and imaging company known for printers is forming a partnership with Baltimore-based biotech company Elixirgen Scientific.

With the partnership, Ricoh Company, Ltd is taking a 34.5 percent stake in Elixirgen for an undisclosed price. Going forward, there are plans to launch a biomedical business that is based in the U.S. this year.

The two companies are joining forces to create biomedical products and services to support drug discovery, which is the process of finding new candidate medications.

Specifically, Ricoh stated that the pair’s combined technologies will make it possible to produce cell chips from a specific kind of stem cell known as iPS. Cell chips, which contain living cells, are used in the testing phase before any trials begin on humans and animals.

“These cell chips can evaluate the diversity of human responses of chemicals at one time in terms of efficacy and toxicity before moving to the clinical trial stage,” Nobuhiro Gemma, a fellow and general manager of Ricoh’s HealthCare Business Group, said in a statement. “In the process of drug discovery, this method using the cell chips will greatly improve the entire drug development process because human diversity is considered in the earliest stage.”

Based in Johns Hopkins’ Science + Technology Park in East Baltimore, three-year-old Elixirgen was founded by Dr. Minoru S.H. Ko, a professor at the Keio University School of Medicine who previously worked within the NIH’s National Institute on Aging.

The company specializes in stem cell technology. It brings technology called “Quick-Tissue,” which can transform specific kinds of stem cells into tissues. Elixirgen said it has achieved a way to speed up the process by which a new cell becomes specialized for a specific function, known as cell differentiation.

Ricoh, which entered the healthcare market 12 years ago, is bringing its printing expertise. The company said it has developed bioprinting technology for over 40 years that can control the number of cells in the chip and their placement.

Gemma said the partnership “establishes Ricoh firmly as a player in the biomedical field.” The companies said the resulting business is projected to be worth $1.86 billion by 2025.


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