Bio-Based Medical Materials

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based medical materials represent a transformative approach to healthcare, leveraging the power of nature to create sustainable and biocompatible solutions for a range of medical applications. These materials are derived from renewable biomass sources like cellulose, chitosan, alginate, collagen, and other natural polymers. They offer a compelling alternative to conventional synthetic medical materials, addressing concerns about biocompatibility, biodegradability, and the environmental impact of medical waste.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Medical Materials can revolutionize healthcare by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, minimizing carbon emissions, and promoting sustainability. Utilizing renewable resources for medical equipment, implants, and packaging reduces environmental impact, contributing to global climate action efforts. This innovation aligns healthcare practices with eco-conscious principles, fostering a greener future.


  • Biopolymer Extraction and Processing: The key technology involves extracting and processing biopolymers from various biomass sources to create materials suitable for medical applications. This can involve:
    • Extraction and Purification: Isolating specific biopolymers from natural sources, such as cellulose from plants or chitosan from crustacean shells, and refining them to achieve high purity and biocompatibility.
    • Chemical Modification: Altering the chemical structure of natural polymers to enhance their properties, such as improving their mechanical strength, biodegradability, or drug delivery capabilities.
    • Biofabrication Techniques: Utilizing techniques like electrospinning, 3D printing, and cell culturing to create complex and functional medical devices and scaffolds from bio-based materials.
  • Biocompatibility and Biodegradability: Bio-based medical materials are designed to be compatible with living tissues and to degrade harmlessly within the body over time. This reduces the need for secondary surgeries to remove implants and minimizes long-term risks associated with foreign materials in the body.
  • Regenerative Medicine: Bio-based materials play a crucial role in regenerative medicine by providing scaffolds that support tissue regeneration and cell growth. These scaffolds can be designed to mimic the natural extracellular matrix, providing a suitable environment for cells to proliferate and form new tissues.

TRL : 4-8 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Bioresorbable Implants: Developing implants made from bio-based materials that are designed to gradually degrade and be absorbed by the body, eliminating the need for removal surgeries. This is particularly relevant for bone plates, screws, and sutures.
  • Drug Delivery Systems: Utilizing bio-based materials to create controlled-release drug delivery systems. These systems can encapsulate medications and release them gradually over time, improving treatment efficacy and reducing side effects.
  • Tissue Engineering Scaffolds: Creating bio-based scaffolds with tailored properties to support the growth and differentiation of specific cell types. These scaffolds are used in tissue engineering applications to repair or replace damaged tissues.
  • Wound Dressings: Developing bio-based wound dressings with antimicrobial properties, enhanced wound healing capabilities, and biodegradability. These dressings can promote faster healing and reduce the risk of infection.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Biodegradable Surgical Sutures
  • Bio-Based Drug-Eluting Stents
  • Eco-Friendly Wound Dressings
  • Plant-Derived Collagen Implants
  • Marine-Based Chitosan Scaffolds
  • Algae-Based Hydrogel Bandages
  • Bio-Ink for 3D Bioprinting
  • Biodegradable Heart Valve Replacements
  • Bio-Based Orthopedic Implants
  • Plant Cellulose for Medical Textiles
  • Sustainable Bio-Based Catheters
  • Natural Polymer-Based Artificial Organs
  • Bioengineered Skin Grafts
  • Biodegradable Nerve Conduits
  • Bio-Based Antimicrobial Coatings
  • Bio-Inspired Regenerative Scaffolds
  • Bio-Based Injectable Hydrogels
  • Plant-Derived Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery
  • Eco-Friendly Tissue Adhesives
  • Natural Polymer-Based Biosensors

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. CollPlant:
    • Technology Enhancement: CollPlant specializes in regenerative medicine and 3D bioprinting using plant-derived materials. They use recombinant human collagen, produced in tobacco plants, to create bio-ink for 3D printing tissues and organs.
    • Uniqueness: CollPlant’s use of plant-derived collagen offers several advantages over traditional animal-derived collagen, including scalability, reduced risk of disease transmission, and avoidance of ethical concerns.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: CollPlant’s technology has applications in various medical fields, including tissue engineering, wound healing, and organ transplantation.
  2. Organovo:
    • Technology Enhancement: Organovo specializes in 3D bioprinting of human tissues for medical research and therapeutic applications. They use bio-ink composed of human cells to create complex tissue structures that mimic native tissue architecture.
    • Uniqueness: Organovo’s focus on creating functional human tissues for research and potential clinical use sets it apart in the field of regenerative medicine. Their technology enables the creation of customized tissues with precise structural and functional characteristics.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: Organovo’s bioprinted tissues are primarily used by pharmaceutical companies for drug testing and development, as well as by researchers studying disease mechanisms and potential treatments.
  3. EpiBone:
    • Technology Enhancement: EpiBone specializes in growing personalized bone tissue using a patient’s own cells. They use a combination of 3D scanning, computer modeling, and tissue engineering techniques to create custom-fit bone grafts for orthopedic reconstruction.
    • Uniqueness: EpiBone’s approach of using a patient’s own cells to grow personalized bone grafts offers several advantages, including improved compatibility, reduced risk of rejection, and enhanced integration with existing bone tissue.
    • End-User Segments Addressed: EpiBone’s technology is primarily targeted towards patients in need of orthopedic treatments, including bone defects, fractures, and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT’s research on Bio-Based Medical Materials concentrates on developing advanced biomaterials derived from renewable sources, such as plant-based polymers and bioengineered proteins, for medical applications.
    • Uniqueness: MIT’s approach stands out for its focus on bioinspired materials design, where researchers draw inspiration from natural structures and processes to create innovative biomaterials with tailored properties. These materials often exhibit enhanced biocompatibility, biodegradability, and functionality compared to conventional synthetic materials.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of MIT’s research span various medical fields, including tissue engineering, drug delivery, and medical device fabrication. For instance, their bio-based materials can be used to develop biocompatible scaffolds for tissue regeneration, targeted drug delivery carriers for cancer therapy, and implantable medical devices with reduced risk of rejection or inflammation.
  2. University of Oxford (UK):
    • Research Focus: The University of Oxford’s research on Bio-Based Medical Materials focuses on exploring the potential of natural biomaterials, such as polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids, for medical applications.
    • Uniqueness: Oxford’s research emphasizes the sustainable and environmentally friendly aspects of bio-based materials, highlighting their biocompatibility, renewable sourcing, and low environmental footprint. Their work often involves the development of novel processing techniques to extract, modify, and characterize biomaterials for specific medical applications.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Oxford’s research include wound healing, tissue regeneration, and drug delivery. For example, their bio-based hydrogels can serve as wound dressings or scaffolds for tissue engineering, promoting healing and regeneration while minimizing adverse reactions or complications.
  3. Stanford University (USA):
    • Research Focus: Stanford’s research on Bio-Based Medical Materials focuses on integrating bioengineering principles with materials science to design advanced biomaterials for medical use.
    • Uniqueness: Stanford’s approach combines expertise in bioengineering, molecular biology, and materials chemistry to create bio-based materials with precise control over structure, composition, and functionality. Their research often involves the development of hybrid materials that combine natural and synthetic components to achieve desired properties and performance.
    • End-use Applications: The applications of Stanford’s research encompass medical devices, regenerative medicine, and personalized medicine. For instance, their bio-based polymers can be used to fabricate implantable devices with tunable mechanical properties and biocompatibility, as well as scaffolds for tissue engineering applications, such as cartilage repair or organ regeneration.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Bio-based medical materials are already being used in several commercially available products, including:

  • Sutures and Wound Dressings: Biodegradable sutures made from materials like polyglycolic acid (PGA) and polylactic acid (PLA) are widely used in surgery. Bio-based wound dressings with antimicrobial properties are also available.
  • Bone Grafts and Scaffolds: Bio-based materials are used in bone grafts and scaffolds to support bone regeneration. These materials are biocompatible and gradually degrade as new bone tissue grows.
  • Drug Delivery Systems: Bio-based polymers are used in controlled-release drug delivery systems for various medications, including cancer drugs, hormones, and antibiotics.