Aspect Biosystems Collaborates with the National Research Council of Canada

Feb 13, 2019

The National Research Council of Canada and Aspect Biosystems work toward new ways to deliver therapeutics to the brain, the holy grail of biopharmaceutical sciences

New 3D therapeutic models of the blood-brain barrier could lead to improved treatments for Alzheimer’s, ALS, and other central nervous system diseases

Source: National Research Council Canada

National Research Council of Canada researchers are using an RX1™ Bioprinter, a cutting-edge microfluidic 3D bioprinting platform from British Columbia-based Aspect Biosystems, to develop a 3D model of the blood-brain barrier.

OTTAWA, Ontario - February 13, 2019 - As diseases of the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease, continue to impact the lives of Canadians, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Aspect Biosystems are working to develop new therapeutic models that could lead to improved treatments in the future and better outcomes for patients suffering from brain disease.

As one might expect, the brain is a highly protected organ. The function of the blood-brain barrier is to keep harmful substances that may circulate in the blood, such as toxins or pathogens, from damaging the brain. Unfortunately, this barrier also prevents the majority of therapeutics from reaching their target, which means there are few effective treatments for brain diseases. Moving medication through the blood-brain barrier is one of the largest unmet needs in the pharmaceutical industry and remains a key challenge in discovering and developing treatments for neurological diseases and disorders.

The NRC has already developed a ground-breaking human 2D model of the blood-brain barrier that allows researchers to better predict which therapeutics could potentially cross to the brain. The core of the 2D model involves using specialized stem cells that are capable of generating any of the cell types in the human body, including brain cells.

Now, by collaborating with Aspect Biosystems and taking advantage of their unique microfluidic 3D bioprinting technology, the NRC is working to create a 3D model that will make it possible to better understand the blood-brain barrier and develop treatments that will more reliably reach the human brain.

This collaboration presents an exciting new opportunity to contribute to pioneering research towards creating a drug testing platform that will be critical to developing treatments for neurological diseases.

Quick Facts

  • The blood-brain barrier is nature's way of keeping the brain safe. It is made up of specialized cells that possess unique properties that prevent most small molecule drugs and nearly all large molecule biologic drugs from reaching the brain. This is a problem when developing new drugs for treating diseases and disorders of the central nervous system.
  • By utilizing the microfluidic 3D bioprinting technology from Aspect Biosystems, NRC researchers are aiming to develop a 3D model that will more accurately mimic the micro-environment of the blood-brain barrier.
  • The goal is to deepen our understanding of the blood-brain barrier to enable a more relevant screening platform that will improve our ability to better de-risk neurotherapeutic drug development pipelines.
  • The NRC’s acquisition of the RX1™ Bioprinter was made possible through funding from the Build in Canada Innovation Program.


“A 3D model will allow us to reproduce the cellular diversity of the blood-brain barrier so that we can better understand the possible interactions between the barrier and intended medical treatments, putting us at the forefront of promising new research.” - Anna Jezierski, Research Officer, Therapeutics Beyond Brain Barriers program, National Research Council of Canada

“We are excited to begin this multidisciplinary collaboration that marries the expertise of the NRC and Aspect Biosystems. By developing ‘living’ models of the blood-brain barrier similar in structure and organization to that of the human brain, we hope to discover novel strategies to deliver therapeutics to the brain, a holy grail of biopharmaceutical sciences." - Danica Stanimirovic, Program Lead, Therapeutics Beyond Brain Barriers program, National Research Council of Canada

“Our goal is to combine the strength of our microfluidic 3D bioprinting platform with the NRC’s deep expertise in this area to develop a blood-brain barrier model suitable for in vitro screening with a line of sight to commercialization. We will thereby enable drug developers to more efficiently and effectively develop life-changing neurotherapeutics for a wide range of brain diseases and disorders.” - Tamer Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer, Aspect Biosystems

Associated Links


Media Relations
National Research Council of Canada
Twitter: @nrc_cnrc
Instagram: @nrc_cnrc

Natalie Korenic
Marketing & Communications Manager
Aspect Biosystems
Twitter: @aspectbiosys

About the National Research Council of Canada

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is the Government of Canada’s largest research organization. It is a key part of the Innovation and Skills Plan and of Budget 2018’s commitment to supporting Canada’s researchers to build a more innovative economy. To help position Canada as a global leader, the NRC is increasing its collaboration with regional ecosystems and with universities, polytechnic institutions and colleges, and establishing collaboration centres across the country.

About Aspect Biosystems

Aspect Biosystems is a privately held biotechnology company pioneering microfluidic 3D bioprinting of living, human tissue. The company’s proprietary technology is enabling advances in understanding fundamental biology, disease research, development of novel therapeutics, and regenerative medicine. In addition to its internal programs, Aspect is focused on strategically partnering with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as academic researchers, to enable the creation of living, human tissues for medical research, therapeutic discovery, and regenerative medicine products.

This news release is also available in French here.

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