Development subsidizes a strategic R&D project to develop a biomedical device for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases

El consejero de Desarrollo Económico y Empresarial, Mikel Irujo, y la directora general de Industria
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Gobierno de Navarra

Development subsidizes a strategic R&D project to develop a biomedical device for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases

  • The 3D3B-AVATAR project will allow the ability of new drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the human brain to be tested.


The Department of Economic and Business Development, through the Call for Strategic R&D Project Grants, has funded the 3D3B-AVATAR project, which has successfully designed and printed microscopic 3D structures that mimic the functional barrier of the human brain using biocompatible inks. This means that the structure, composition, and functionality of these printed synthetic structures are similar to the biological barrier existing in human brains.

Specifically, the part that has been successfully recreated is the blood-brain barrier, a microscopic structure that protects the brain. It functions like a filter, allowing the entry of substances such as oxygen, water, and glucose, while preventing the entry of other external agents such as bacteria and certain drugs.

To treat neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, it is necessary for drugs to be able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and reach the human brain tissue. The objective of the 3D3B-AVATAR project has been to achieve an artificial model of this barrier using 3D printing techniques, the development of bioinks, and fluid dynamics studies. This will allow the ability of new drugs under development to penetrate the barrier and reach the brain to be tested in the laboratory.

3D3B-AVATAR has been developed by a consortium led by Navarrabiomed, which has also involved the Public University of Navarra (UPNA), the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA), NAITEC, and additive manufacturing companies Iruña Tecnologías, Hirudi 3D Intelligence, and One Voxel.

Development of the project

In order to achieve the goal of printing synthetic microscopic structures that mimic the blood-brain barrier of a human brain artificially, the consortium of this project has first conducted specific processing and study of brain tissue from healthy donors and patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Once the microscopic vascular structures of these tissues had been characterized from a fluid-dynamics perspective and the imaging analysis had been completed, different geometric models were designed to recreate the basic structure of the blood-brain barrier.

To complete this functional microscopic human structure, bioprinting bio-inks have been developed. With these materials and fluid-dynamic patterns, a functional basic device has been 3D printed using biocompatible inks and biological components that mimic the blood-brain barrier of a healthy individual.

The call for proposals

The grants for Strategic R&D Projects stem from an annual call for proposals made by the Department of Economic and Business Development through the Directorate General of Industry, Energy, and Strategic Projects S4. The 3D3B-AVATAR project was approved in the 2020 call and has just concluded. The project had a total budget of €1,236,300.

This call for grants aims to promote the implementation of high-impact projects that are aligned with the sectors identified in Navarra’s Smart Specialization Strategy (S4). Specifically, seven challenges related to electric vehicles, renewable energy, advanced medicine, food, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and innovative ideas are identified. The 3D3B-AVATAR project falls under this latter category.

The call for R&D strategic projects for 2023-2026 is currently in the evaluation process. One of the main novelties of this edition is the inclusion of an eighth challenge related to the circular economy.

El reto de 3D3B-AVATAR
Ramírez Huerto
Head of the Unit