Q&A

Shangtong Li, Recent MICA Graduate, Joins DiPole Materials as Facilities Technician/Design Associate

August 20, 2019, Baltimore, MD – DiPole Materials, LLC, an electrospinning company that specializes in custom nanofiber manufacturing to meet a range of industry applications, today announced the hiring of Shangtong Li, a recent graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), as Facilities Technician/Design Associate. Li, who recently earned a BFA degree in Interdisciplinary Sculpture at MICA, has extensive experience in digital fabrication and bio fabrication, both of which are key functions in nanofiber manufacturing. With DiPole Materials, Li will focus on the preparation of chemical formulations through various processes as well as the operation and maintenance of DiPole’s electrospinning equipment and laboratory space. “We’re truly thrilled to have Shangtong join our growing team at DiPole,” said Ken Malone, co-founder of DiPole Materials. “As a Baltimore-based company, it’s especially exciting for us to have Shangtong’s creative and design skills, developed during her years at MICA, for the benefit of our customers.” At MICA, Li worked as a technician in the institute’s Digital Fabrication studios and Materials Library. She also served as a Teaching Assistant for MICA Professor Ryan Hoover’s “Intro to Digital Fabrication” class and co-taught a Workshop at Open Works on “3D Printing Sustainable Materials.” Li also served as the 2018 Extreme Arts intern for the Hopkins Extreme Material Institute/MICA Extreme Arts Summer Project/Internship. In this program, Li completed an independent material research project in three months by working collaboratively with the research professor and students at Johns Hopkins University's Kang Lab. About DiPole Materials: Dipole Materials is an electrospinning company, based in Baltimore, MD, that specializes in custom nanofiber manufacturing to meet a range of industry applications, including cell culture, tissue engineering, water filtration, technical textiles like piezoelectric yarns, catalysis and more. DiPole Materials’ off-the-shelf product suite includes patented BioPaper technology that serves as a 3D nanofiber-based cell scaffold for 3D cell culture and bioprinting. Learn more: www.dipolematerials.com Media Contact: Ken Malone DiPole Materials 410.692.8605...

Q&A with DiPole’s James Dolgin on the Future of Nanofibers

James Dolgin, DiPole Materials’ Director of Business Development, is steeped in the business of custom nanofiber manufacturing. With a degree in Polymer Science and Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a current Venture for America fellow, James focuses his time on what’s around the corner for nanofibers and industry applications. With this in mind, we recently talked with James about his work at DiPole Materials and his thoughts on the future of nanofibers. What are some current industry and market trends for nanofibers? What's grabbing on most to nanofibers right now is the biomedical field, which is taking advantage of the small-scale interactions nanofibers can have with cells. One of the biggest problems with creating a better cell environment is actually mimicking the extracellular matrix, which nanofibers do in a way that’s highly customizable and biomimetic. You can control how cells differentiate and grow with far more accuracy using electrospinning. In addition, we’re seeing a lot of ways in which the nanofiber structure can aid cell growth in-vivo for applications like wound healing, wound dresses, internal replacements for large volumetric muscle loss. Not just lab studies, but actual medical applications. Beyond that, in general, there's a huge shift in several industries toward nanofibers like the textile industry and the filtration industry – both air and water. We’ve seen the need to largely decrease the diameter, and increase the surface area, of textile fibers so you're getting an interaction between fibers and molecules. This way you can use them for their ability to bind with additives and embedded nanoparticles. What's great about nanofibers is you're still preserving the mechanical properties of the bulk material. In fact, in a lot of cases, nanofibers increase tensile strength and elastic modulus. The challenge right now is scaling ideas in this space. And this is the challenge we're addressing at DiPole Materials every day. The need for nanofibers is growing exponentially, and the research to address this need is too. The missing piece is bridging that gap – and that’s where we come in. Let’s dig deeper into how DiPole plays a role in this industry. Describe DiPole's core product suite and industry focus.  What DiPole provides to this shift in focus to nanofibers is working with people for whatever level of interest or expertise they're coming in with and taking their projects from an idea about using something for nanofibers to a reality. Dipole also manufactures BioPaper scaffolds that bring the benefits of nanofiber substrates to the hands of tissue engineers and biologists. And we created PiezoYarn, yarn that generates electricity for wearable sensors simply through being stretched. We’ve learned a lot about custom projects through our own product development, and we feel pretty comfortable with ideas at all stages of development. We've had customers come to us with ideas ranging from published studies to ideas on the back of a napkin and we've worked with them to actualize their vision. This can be proof of concept or scaling a proven idea. We’re really just taking ideas both in academia and industry and bringing them to the rest of the world. You hear quite a bit how nanofibers are the future, but there's a huge imbalance between how much research there is out there about the benefits of nanofiber technology and actual implementations and applications. DiPole is here to make that happen and move them down the pipeline. Peering around the corner, do you have a sense what the next five years may look like for industry needs and nanofiber technology? I think we’re going to keep seeing an influx of research in the cell scaffolding, textile and increasingly so, electronics fields. The need for advanced materials is ever-growing and nanofibers are the next frontier of this field. Five years down the road you're going to see a lot more inter-industry collaboration especially as wearable technologies become increasingly important and symbiotic with industries like the Internet of Things. I'd also say we're going to learn a lot about how nanofibers work in real life and keep iterating. There will be a lot of researchers who start to look back on their nanofiber research and say "I want to take this into the real world and I want to start a business with this.” That’s where we come in. Baltimore, our company’s hometown, is a great place for a company like ours since we have such a robust biotech field with Johns Hopkins University, University of Maryland, Baltimore and UMBC. We’ve had great success collaborating with customers on the east coast, from Philadelphia to North Carolina. Dipole is moving forward Baltimore’s two biggest strengths: medical and manufacturing. We’re putting the city front and center in the nanofiber manufacturing eruption....

Looking forward, what are the major trends in drug development, especially relative to DiPole Materials’ work?

Ultimately, increasing the efficiency in the drug development process – which is a function of speed as well as efficacy. One wayDiPole fits into thatdrug development pipeline is through creation of our scaffolds for high through-put screening of treatments. High through-put screening works by screening a panel of treatments rapidly and in a cost-effective manner. If you think about testing drugs, the most “real” response is seen in humans during clinical trials.Indeed, if it was safe and efficient for a patient to take a drug still in development, that's what you'd want to do, But, of course, that's veryunsafe and cost-ineffective. So, the next step back from human testing is taking a treatment and testing in ananimal model. The problem with this is it's also fairly cost ineffective, and so that's why you take another step back and you look at tissue culture models. Those are the cheapest. Unfortunately,tissue cultures arethe least representative of a human system. The goal, as always, is to end up with a process where you can do something cheaply, quickly, efficiently and have it be as representative as possible as that end use. With our 3D gelatin-based scaffolds, DiPole helps close that gap between the distance that exists now starting with a tissue culture plate and hoping to end up impacting human health....

Researchers seem to be in a constant race to keep up with new life sciences tools – what problems does DiPole aim to solve for them? Is there a special dynamic or innovation that DiPole introduces into this equation?

When you look at the spectrum of life science research, it's a lot of different players that all share a common goal: to impact human health. Whether you're a drug manufacturer, a biomedical researcher at an institution, or you're someone like us at DiPole making research tools - really, all of our goals are completely aligned. What DiPole does is it enables researchers to increase the probability that what they're doing in the lab translates to the public. And that's done through our3D electrospuntissue scaffolds. Most work being done in labs now is still on a flat, plastic petri dish. These systems are highly unrepresentative of the human body. I certainly can't think of any part of the body that is either flat or made of plastic.  It’s no wonder only about 14 percent of all drugs that begin the clinical trial process actually end up approved. When trying to study a cell, if we could get real cellular responses, rather than the artificial responses that we see now on a petri dish, at an earlier stage, then we would accelerate the pace of developing new therapies and treatments as well as better understand pathologies and underlying mechanisms of disease. Dipole looks at the duality of this problem and addresses both of those issues through their cell culture BioPapers. BioPapers are 3D nanofiber structures that recreate the extracellular matrix that a cell is accustomed to interacting with in the body. This 3D environment is important because cells respond differently to external stimuli whether it's some kind of treatment, therapy,drug or signal from a neighboring cell. And not only do cells respond differently in those 3D environments, but they also interact with each other differently, which is equally as important. Cells exist as a network that communicate and these networks also have an influence on a potential response from stimuli or treatment. The second way DiPole addresses this flat, plastic dish issue is the fact that we take the plastic and replace it with biologic materials. Our electrospun nanofibers, in fact, are gelatin-based, which is the kind of material a cell would expect to bind to, interact with or communicate with within the body. When you combined those two properties, you end up increasing the probability that when you do apply a stimulus or a treatment to the cell system, you're going to see a response that is truly reflective of what you would see once it is tested in patients, greatly improving the successful conversion of lab science to patient-ready therapies....

There’s a lot of innovation today in electrospinning and nanofibers. How does DiPole Materials fit into this space?

Electrospinning is a technology that's been around for a hundred years – which really speaks to the robustness of this type of process and in particular to the utility of nanofibers.  When we electrospin a material, we end up with a 3D mesh of nanofibers that provide material that has an incredibly high surface area to volume ratio. Every day we see new nanofiber applications coming out of academic labs for uses in batteries, air/water filtration, drug delivery,tissue culture, food preservation, etc.  Really what the nanofibers are doing is one of three things 1) providing a high surface area to volume ratio to increase the efficiency of a reaction 2) provide a filter or barrier or 3) provide a 3D nanostructure to recreate a particular cellular environment. Where the innovation comes in, and where Dipole Materials comes in, is entering emerging markets where innovation requires one of those three things to be met. To your question, DiPole Materials plays in four major areas: one is life science, the second is technical textiles and the third is catalysis. And the fourth, if you will, is in specialty applications. The reason we are in these spaces is because that's where we believe nanofibers really move the needle.And to achieve our mission, we have a team of experts in place to fill out those areas nicely. Our goal is to work with our customers to solve their problems using nanofiber-based solutions....