The Most Impressive Vendor Presentation I've Ever Seen Was About Bioprinting
Cellink Bionova X
April 19, 2023

The Most Impressive Vendor Presentation I've Ever Seen Was About Bioprinting


In years past, this word may have conjured images of body parts being spit out of a scary looking black box for mad scientists to use in a number of unsavory ways. Sounds like a great plot for a new Frankenstein-ish novel, right?

But bioprinting is actually an amazing technology. Similar to 3D printing, bioprinting uses digital files to print tissues layer by layer on a surface. These tissues can be used in a number of different ways to advance scientific research, including in the discovery and development of an array of treatments for a wide range of conditions, from wound healing to corneal blindness and more. Bioprinting is actually pretty cool and embarassingly, I didn't know too much about bioprinting before I attended the SLAS (Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening) Conference in San Diego last month.

It's been at least 5 years since the last conference I attended, and perhaps longer (I left academia in 2018 but don't remember whether I actually attended a conference that year). Over the past 5 years I've written hundreds of articles about exciting new scientific developments, mainly in the biotech and synthetic biology spaces. Automation has been a huge theme and while I recognize its power, I was taken aback by the way in which automation has exploded in the last 5 years. Granted, I was at a conference dedicated completely to automation, but still, it was incredible to see the amazing technological advances that have happened since I was last in the laboratory. Back then, I thought liquid handling robots were the best thing since sliced bread. The even more surprising thing is that many of these tools are being used regularly in academic labs, too -- they aren't just limited to industry anymore.

Overwhelmed when I first stepped into the exhibition hall and saw hundreds of vendors, I eventually made my way to nearly every booth in the three days that I was there. I talked to dozens of people and learned about a range of products, from the liquid handling robots I was already familiar with to solutions for high-throughput immunoassays, antibody development, and even the nuts and bolts (literally) of the instruments that facilitate automation. One thing hadn't changed since the last conference I'd been to, however -- the inevitable booths hosting representatives that looked like they'd rather be anywhere else. The next step up is those that try by giving a shy smile or hello as you walk by but secretly hope you don't stop. Then, you get those that are clearly happy to be there but they give a canned presentation that everyone hears and are unable to answer deep questions because they aren't scientists and don't actually use the instrument. This was the majority of people that I talked to.

But I did visit one booth that blew me out of the water.

Cellink is a company that manufactures bioprinters. At the conference they were showcasing a new instrument, the Bionova X, which facilitates direct-in-well printing for high-throughput tissue generation. I was approached by a bright young man that gave me what was, quite frankly, the best presentation I've ever had at a vendor booth (and I've been to thousands). He knew what he was talking about, and rather than giving me a sales pitch, he just let the amazing science shine and speak for itself. He was clear, definitely understood what he was talking about (he was able to answer all of my questions) and most importantly of all, clearly believed in his company and its instruments. If I were still in the academic laboratory, I would have considered the Bionova X (or other Cellink instruments) based solely on this interaction. This is a company that is knowledgeable and innovative and truly cares about advancing science. Sadly they did not win the SLAS New Product award, but that's ok -- I honestly don't think it needs an award next to its name.

My visit to Cellink's booth and the presentation I received there are at the top of my list when it comes to the highlights of a trip that include amazing food and drink, over-the-top after-hours networking, and an overall open and enthusiastic group of thousands of scientists. So, great job Cellink -- can't wait to see what exciting discoveries your instruments facilitate in the near future!