Home > NC > Winston Salem > Education, Careers & Opportunity > Winston-Salem: A Leader in Regenerative Medicine

Winston-Salem: A Leader in Regenerative Medicine

In addition to a thriving life sciences and health sector, this region is home to a growing innovation district that has become a model for other cities.

By Karen Vernon on January 3, 2023

WFIRM, Winston Salem NC,Research Associate Young Wook Moon shows off a bio-printed vascular tissue mold that won 1st & 2nd place in a recent NASA contest
Eric Waters

Technology developed in Winston-Salem is lifting off into zero gravity, thanks to Axiom Space and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM).

WFIRM, part of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, boasts more than 400 researchers from 64 countries and is the world’s largest institute for regenerative medicine research. Many basic principles of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering were first developed here. WFIRM scientists have engineered 15 different applications of tissue and organs used successfully in human patients, including skin, muscles, cartilage and more.

WFIRM, Winston Salem NC, demo of the body-on-a-chip system/microfluidic system, Khiry Sutton Murphy, post doc lab employee / research fellow.
Eric Waters

“Our mission is to improve patient’s lives,” says Dr. Anthony Atala, director of WFIRM. “Our vision is to create global transformation in the regenerative medicine field.”

Along with its partners in the RegenMed Hub in Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter, WFIRM is making that vision a reality. 

WFIRM, Winston Salem NC, Katie Benson (Core Tech for the Regenerator Test Bed facility), the machine is the BioSpheriX-Vivo, an closed cell incubation manufacturing system/isolater.
Eric Waters

Collaboration is Key

“Nationwide, academic institutions are good at innovation and research but not necessarily good at innovative manufacturing,” Atala says. More than a decade ago, WFIRM identified manufacturing as a critical element needed to advance the regenerative medicine field.

This led to the creation of the Regenerative Manufacturing Innovation Consortium, which focused on collaboration between academia, government and industry. The RegenMed Development Organization (ReMDO), a nonprofit and collaborating research partner with WFIRM, was established to manage the initiative and, in turn, helped create the Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing Society to bring together like minds from all over the world.

All these and more form the RegenMed Hub, which Atala says is a way to accelerate WFIRM’s research and take it “from bench to bedside.”

WFIRM, Winston Salem NC, demo of the body-on-a-chip system/microfluidic system, Khiry Sutton Murphy, post doc lab employee / research fellow.
Eric Waters

Testing, Testing

One of the most important components has been the RegeneratOR Test Bed, housed within WFIRM, which helps advance technologies by providing the infrastructure, equipment and know-how for prototype development. Companies like Panasonic Health and Oracle have contributed millions of dollars in equipment. WFIRM provides the space, and ReMDO manages it. 

Startup and emerging regenerative medicine companies can access it all for free, advancing their prototypes without investing in expensive space and equipment upfront.

“When we announced the test bed a little over a year ago, the space we had available was all in use within three months, so we doubled the space. That was gone in another three months,” Atala says. “Now we are tripling the space and have more folks coming in,” Atala says the companies are different than anticipated. “We expected a lot of small startups, but what we saw was the movement of established companies as well, with more arriving all the time,” Atala says. “The test bed has been a magnet for these companies.”

WFIRM, Winston Salem NC, 3-D Bioprinting/Printer, graduate student lab associate Jun Tae Huh.
Eric Waters

The Next Frontier 

Axiom Space is one company that recently signed on as a tenant in the RegenMed Hub’s Innovation Accelerator. Axiom Space holds the contract to build and manage the next space station when NASA decommissions the International Space Station in 2030.

“Axiom Space and the WFIRM/ReMDO team are working to establish an in-space biomanufacturing hub in conjunction with the RegenMed Hub,” says Jana Stoudemire, director of in-space manufacturing and in-space solutions at Axiom Space. “This collaboration leverages Axiom’s leadership and expertise in space

operations and continued progress in building the world’s first commercial space station, as well as the globally recognized tissue engineering expertise of the WFIRM/ReMDO team.”

WFIRM, Winston Salem NC, 3-D Bioprinting/Printer, graduate student lab associate Jun Tae Huh, bio-printed ear mold.
Eric Waters

WFIRM showcased its expertise when its team of scientists won first and second place in the 2021 NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge. The team used 3D printing technology to engineer human liver tissue of considerable size that could be kept alive outside the human body for more than a month and still remain functional. 

“That’s a high bar,” Atala says. “When we engineer tissue, we usually transfer it to the patient in a much shorter period of time.”

“As we move forward with these technologies, it will be important to develop next-generation regenerative medicine for space that can help technologies back here on Earth.”

Dr. Anthony Atala, WFIRM

Atala says it is important to NASA to make sure this innovation is available to space travelers, but it has other applications as well.

“As we move forward with these technologies, it will be important to develop next-generation regenerative medicine for space that can help technologies back here on Earth.”

As one example, BioMedInnovations, the Innovation Accelerator’s first tenant, develops technology to improve the perfusion and preservation of organs for transplant, which widens the pool of viable organs available. “We’ve also dreamed dreams with Axiom about development in a zero-gravity environment,” says Mark Finlay, BMI’s chief operating officer. “The whole point is to enable research to come together in ways not previously possible.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Winston-Salem, NC, area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Greater Winston-Salem

Array ( [0] => 152642 [1] => 152623 [2] => 152670 )
Array ( )
Array ( )
Array ( [0] => 152642 [1] => 152623 [2] => 152670 )

More To Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Keep up to date with our latest rankings and articles!
Enter your email to be added to our mailing list.

/n/n/n /n