Streamlining Drug Discovery with 3D Biomimetic Models

As drug development costs continue to soar, CELLINK’s 3D bioprinters, bioinks and technologies are driving down pharmaceutical prices with streamlined workflows and money-saving miniaturization.

How bioprinting can reduce drug development costs

Finding a drug candidate and taking the final drug to market can take up to 10 years. And some estimate that average costs to bring a drug to market range from $1.3 billion to more than $2 billion. A staggering failure rate of over 90% during pharmaceutical development accounts for part of these extraordinary costs. Researchers are touting a promising solution for lowering these costs and inefficiencies: 3D bioprinting. For one, 3D bioprinting enables high-throughput compound screening on functional 3D tissue models. Doing so can ensure that ineffective compounds or ones with unintended side effects, like drug-induced liver injury (DILI), do not progress further down the pipeline.

Lowering how many drug candidates fail during clinical trials

During initial stages of drug development, animal or 2D cell culture models have historically helped researchers evaluate drug candidates’ safety, toxicity, pharmacokinetics and metabolism. In one internal study, however, 2D cell culture models failed to mimic intrinsic properties of in vivo tissue and lacked the tissue-specific environments and extracellular matrix (ECM) to support cell growth and phenotypic functionality. Drug compounds tested on animal models, some researchers believe, may not translate in human clinical trials because of cross-species differences. Therefore, including 3D tissue models in preclinical drug discovery can help drug developers bring only the best candidates to clinical trials.

Efficiency and sustainability in drug discovery and development

Workflows that incorporate 3D bioprinting in preclinical drug discovery are more efficient. These workflows lower costs, not just because they enable automated high-throughput screening of a large number of drugs with smaller amounts of compounds. Crucially, by using patient-derived cells, 3D bioprinting yields more physiologically relevant models. Last but not least, using 3D bioprinted alternative models support sustainability efforts, including the 3Rs principle of replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals in medical research.

Bioprinted models can help avoid drug-induced liver injury during clinical trials​​

DILI plays a significant role in drug attrition and withdrawal during clinical trials. Failure to go to market leads to higher drug costs and puts the lives of patients at risk. Reducing the number of potentially hepatotoxic drugs during preclinical screening should mitigate these failure rates and costs. The development of a functional 3D liver model requires the synergy of multiple liver-specific cells to create a physiologically relevant microenvironment. A study based out of Soochow University described producing 3D liver models with the BIO X for DILI testing in order to remove hepatotoxic compounds from the development pipeline. In an internal study, CELLINK successfully used the BIO X to 3D bioprint in vitro liver models for high-throughput drug screening and studying DILI.

Immuno-oncology models

The ability to scale up 3D bioprinting is essential to translating technologies from research and development to the pharmaceutical industry. To that end, a team of researchers from Cornell University and Wake Forest University used the INKREDIBLE for a high-throughput immersion bioprinting assay of patient-derived tumor organoids. In another internal study, the BIO X was used to bioprint a murine lung cancer model for a T-cell cytotoxicity assay in a high-throughput manner. That study allowed CELLINK scientists to screen checkpoint inhibitors in more efficient and clinically translational models.


Bioprinting and 3D tissue models are essential players in sustainability efforts to replace inaccurate animal experiments in initial stages of research. While we will still need human trials in the future, researchers are seeing remarkable promise in connecting multiple organs-on-a-chip to produce labs-on-a-chip or bodies-on-a-chip. These integrated chips would allow a drug to flow through several organ models in addition to the targeted organ. Lastly, drug candidates would flow through the liver so metabolites could be analyzed for adverse effects to other organs.