The rising star of bio-tech – Erik Gatenholm – Swedish bioprinting company paving the way for the future of medicine

CELLINK is a 3D Bioprinting company that has gone from startup to being listed on Nasdaq First North in just one year. One of the two founders, Erik Gatenholm, visited The Swedish American Chambers of Commerce yearly event SACC Summit in Boston at the end of October to discuss Business Through Innovation and to exhibit his 3D printer. 

– I had a great time and it was a fantastic opportunity to visit SACC Summit in Boston, says Erik Gatenholm. The best parts of the event was being able to participate in panel discussions about the Future of Academia and to meet fellow industry leaders.

Cellink is a Sweden-based bio-tech company that commercializes bioinks for 3D bioprinting of human organs and tissue. Erik Gatenholm started CELLINK together with Hector Martinez Avila in January 2016, both expressing a deep interest in 3D printing and the doors it could open. Little did they know that the company would end up growing at such a fast pace in the upcoming year, mainly through hard work and persistence.

– Instead of 3D printing plastics we developed a new material, a bioink, made out of cellulose from the Swedish forest industry and a few other components allowing for printing of human tissues, Erik Gatenholm says as he explains the beginnings of the company.

The printer’s capabilities range from making ears and noses using chondrocytes (cartilage cells) to an actual human heart tissue that could potentially be used as an organ replacement or implant for humans further down the road. The printed tissue also serves to further medical research. Instead of doing medical and cosmetic studies on animals it will be possible to do more realistic studies on printed human tissues at earlier stages. CELLINK’s bioinks currently cover a limited number of cell types and the printer can only print a limited number of cells in each experiment. The complexity of printing also depends on the blueprint or 3D model, as a nose just needs skin and cartilage, while more complex organs are just a future possibility right now, as they require CELLINK to develop more advanced printers and inks.

– The hardest part for a company that grows so fast is the recruitment of excellent people. We have just opened an office in Boston where we want to recruit students from MIT and Harvard. For us, as a new company, it is hard to compete with more established companies and get the students to choose CELLINK as their workplace as startups are sometimes associated with high risk.

It is also the qualification that is important to Erik Gatenholm when it comes to starting new businesses.

– My advice for people who want to start their own business is to find the right people to work with, people with the right competence. It is also important to be ready for a long and demanding journey. Starting a new company is fun, you will meet a lot of interesting people.

Erik Gatenholm got acknowledge earlier in October when he won the Anders Wall Exceptional Entrepreneurship Award. The award was given by The Swedish American Chamber of Commerce New York at the annual Innovate 46 award at Nasdaq in Time Square. For Erik Gatenholm, it was a great honor.

– It meant tremendously much to win the award. It shows that we are doing something good and that we are building something that will change the world.

Photo: Erik Gatenholm and Hector Martinez Avila showcase their 3D printer at SACC Summit in Boston