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Series Technology

Part 9, Case Study 2, The Scientist’s Narrative

Chapter 7 of the book is dedicated to Prof. Jos Malda, a world leading biotechnologist based in the Netherlands.

The Laboratory

Prof. Jos Malda heads a research group that focuses on biofabrication and biomaterials design, in particular for the regeneration of (osteo) chondral defects. The team is investigating regenerative means for repairing damaged joints in humans and animals, with particular interest in the knee. The team works alongside and within both the medical and veterinary facilities at Utrecht University, studying wear on both animal and human joints and have designed and built a production facility that allows for the 3D printing of living cells to make live repair implants that can be surgically implanted.

The chapter recounts the work from Malda’s perspective. He has long been involved with responsible innovation and its practices, and trains all of his team in ethics.

The chapter takes the model and issues addressed in the furniture restoration workshop and compares them to the laboratory and the narrative that Malda offers through recorded interviews.

The use of tools and the layout of the laboratory is compared, with the use of skilled visions and similarities in problem solving techniques also highlighted. The comparative shows how research in the lab can be seen as following similar lines of development to those in the workshop. The use of different generations of tools, based on a nuanced understanding of their capabilities and possibilities, the practice of building tools for specific uses, the application of techniques from other fields in problem solving and the view of the finished product within its lifespan (an implant seen not as a finished product but as something has to grow and survive wear, very much as the restorer sees the choice of materials and techniques used in the workshop).

Malda’s own Words

The second half of the chapter (like those previous) offers an interview transcription with Prof. Malda himself. He describes the reaction to his laboratory producing a 3D printed skull that was fitted to a young woman, delving into the problem of expectations for future medical treatment, the printing of organs and the thin line between repair and enhancement.

Malda narrates the network capacity necessary for such work, reflecting the furniture restoration experience from the previous chapter, the value of teamwork (ditto) his visions and aims and financial value of his work for the university. He describes his push towards standardization which leads him on to EU funding and finally protocols, which leads us to the very point of the book and this series: Some are international but others are internally created within the project!

This brings us back to the conversation with the furniture restorer. The protocols that are created within Malda’s project reflect the philosophies and goals and aims and personal beliefs of the team. Just as the restorer carries out unseen work, reflecting the workshop philosophy (workshop protocol), the scientists also share an understanding, and it is one which they themselves create. Both teamleaders are striving for the right way of proceeding, within their own set of beliefs that is constructed through their networks. They are both using a set of tools, many of which they have constructed themselves, and they both see their work within a broader and longer term view.

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