Philly Startup’s Heart Is In The Right Place


Daniel Cabrera, 22, and Ricardo Solorzano, 25, both of Center City, co-founded BioBots, a firm in Southwest Center City that has developed a toolkit to fabricate the 3-D structure of human tissue.

BioBots_logo_200BioBots is a recent graduate of DreamIt Health Philly’s 2014 accelerator. I spoke with Cabrera, the CEO.


Q: How did you come up with the idea for the biz?

A: There are devices that can build 3-D structures out of human tissue, but they’re big, expensive and difficult to use. So Ricardo began working on a different model in his dorm room while he was an engineering student Penn. I was a student in biology and computer science and we met up and formed BioBots.


Q: Startup money?

A: We’ve been bootstrapping but have $150,000 invested in the company, including $50,000 from DreamIt. Other investors are Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Wharton and Penn.


Q: What’s the biz do?

A: We’ve built a high-resolution, desktop bioprinter that builds functional 3-D tissue. Eventually the goal is to get these 3-D tissues implanted into people and achieve re-creation of an artificial organ.


Q: The value prop?

A: Our device builds 3-D structures out of biocompatible materials. They’re polymers, like collagen, that make up your skin and act like glue that hold cells together. Right now, we’re talking about 3-D tissues that aren’t implantable but have other uses, like creating organ models for testing compounds and drugs.


Q: The biz model?

A: We sell a 12-by-12-inch compact box for $5,000. We’ve already sold 17. We also provide a kit of inks to print high-resolution, 3-D biological structures.


Q: Your customers?

A: Right now, mainly scientific researchers at medical schools, including Penn and Drexel.


Q: Do you have competitors? What differentiates you?

A: There are other tissue-engineering devices, but to really accelerate development they must be smaller, more cost-effective to manufacture, easier to use and more accessible.


Q: How big a biz is this?

A: Three of us full-time and three part-time.


Q: What’s been the biggest challenge growing the biz?

A: We’re both engineers, so learning how a business works wasn’t instantaneous. Having access to mentors and advisers at DreamIt was helpful.


Q: What’s next?

A: We’re trying to lock down 17 to 20 sales and get feedback from buyers to help figure out BioBots 2.0. The next version is probably what we want to mass-produce and sell. We’re doing a $2.5 million seed round with $200,000 committed.