Dean Kamen, who, fairly or not, is most commonly associated with the Segway personal transportation device, also developed some of the most impactful inventions of the past half-century. These include the first drug infusion and insulin pumps as well as the first portable dialysis machines. He’s also the founder of the FIRST and the affiliated robotics competition for high school students.
Although he’s been relatively quiet as of late, it appears Kamen is ready for a new challenge. He recently founded the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute or ARMI. The goal of his new company is to create an industry for the production of human organs and tissues from the recipients' own cells.
Dubbed biofabrication, the process could be used to produce kidneys, livers, or lungs and obtained support in the form of $80 million from the Department of Defense. That money came with the catch that ARMI needed to raise matching funds of its own.
Kamen didn’t raise $80 million. He raised $214 million from a collection of companies that includes Rockwell Automation. He’s also garnered support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which will be instrumental in developing processes and standards for obtaining approvals from agencies like the FDA.
He’s also gotten the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) onboard. Not only can this group provide technical assistance, but Kamen likens what he's doing with ARMI to the invention of the semiconductor. Once it was manufactured at scale, the semiconductor gave birth to numerous technological breakthroughs.
The main goal of ARMI will be to support those in the medical field by creating an infrastructure for manufacturing organs on-demand and in real time.
ARMI has promised the DoD that it will have something to show in less than five years. While it might not be an entire organ, Kamen is confident that processes should be in place for the production of skin, bone, or cartilage for treating wounded soldiers or emergency room patients.
It is estimated that 120,000 Americans are waiting for organ donations, and 20 die each day waiting for a transplant.