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July 14, 2011

Bioprinting company finds stable revenue stream by making 3-dimensional “constructs” of diseased or dysfunctional human cells for better drug testing

Xconomy reports that Organovo is bioprinting 3-dimensional “constructs” of diseased or dysfunctional human cells that can be used as models for testing new drugs. Creating a 3-D matrix of cells enables each cell to interact with adjoining cells, so they react to drug compounds much as they would in the body. Pharmaceutical companies are paying enough for this product and service so that Organovo can skip at least one round of venture funding.


Murphy says conventional drug testing on liver cells has been complicated because the cells flatten out in a petri dish—and as that happens there tends to be changes in the cells’ patterns of gene expression, making the cultured cells biologically less like their natural counterparts. By producing a piece of human tissue that can live outside the body, Organovo is making it possible for pharmaceutical researchers to test the toxicity of an experimental compound in a way that more closely mimics the reaction within a living organism.

They make it possible to take six or seven drug candidates and running tests on human constructs, so they can look specifically at 20 genotypes.

With a new and stable source of revenue, Organovo is expanding its laboratory space to accommodate the company’s long-range goal of developing the technology needed to create new organs from a patient’s own cells.

“One of the things that’s been good about the past six months is that the promise of our technology is holding true,” Murphy says. “The constructs we’re creating robustly build [blood vessels] with collagen, so the blood vessel grows stronger over time. The next challenge is getting to greater and greater vascularization of the construct. The emerging story is going to be, ‘Who can make thicker tissues with more blood vessels inside?’ “

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