3D Biomatrix, the Ann Arbor, MI-based life science startup spun out of the University of Michigan in 2010, has finally secured a U.S. patent for the technology behind its hanging drop plates, which are used by researchers to grow cells in culture. It’s the first and only drop plate patent of its kind issued in the U.S., according to the company.
“It’s very exciting—it’s been a long time coming,” says Laura Schrader, the company’s CEO. When we caught up with Schrader last February, the company had cleared the final hurdle to the patent and expected its issuance within weeks, but the wheels of bureaucracy ended up turning much more slowly.
Especially exciting to 3D Biomatrix is the period of exclusivity the U.S. patent office granted to the company. The patent doesn’t expire until 2035, which allows the company to sell the drop plates for 20 years before other competitors can enter the market.
Traditionally, researchers have tested drug compounds that affect cell growth in flat, 2D cell cultures. Schrader says the 3D Biomatrix plates offer more accurate results by mimicking the cellular environment in a human body. For instance, a cancer researcher trying to develop a tumor-shrinking drug can use 3D drop plates to grow a microtumor for testing instead of using a flat layer of cells.
Testing cells in a flat dish can result in false readings, because the cells react differently than they would in a 3D structure. In addition to producing better results, Schrader says, testing compounds in a 3D structure can save time and money.
Schrader also says the technology continues to catch on in the research community. She sees the evidence in scientific publications across the globe that publish research, where mentions of scientists using 3D Biomatrix products are on the rise.
“I expect the market will continue to grow,” Schrader says. “We’ll see more and more 3D assays and 3D media. There’s a real drive to create an environment to grow cells in 3D.”
International patents on the company’s drop plates are still pending, and Schrader says she expects results from those filings soon.