Organovo to Offer Preclinical Drug Tests Based on 3-D Liver Tissue

8/13/14Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Organovo (NYSE: ONVO) says a three-dimensional sample of living human liver tissue created with its bio-printing technology was used successfully for the first time to predict that a pre-clinical drug candidate would have a toxic effect on the liver.

In financial results reported yesterday for the company’s fiscal first quarter that ended June 30, Organovo says its 3-D human liver tissue, created in a petri dish, detected the toxicity of a compound that had been deemed to be safe in a standard battery of pre-clinical animal studies and toxicity tests. (The drug’s liver toxicity was discovered after it was given to patients in a clinical trial; Organovo’s tests picked up the problem without having to expose any people to the drug.)

Organovo CEO Keith Murphy says the results suggest that Organovo’s technology could help pharmaceutical companies steer clear of experimental compounds with safety concerns that would otherwise only show up in expensive clinical trials with human patients. He estimates the industry could potentially save billions of dollars if Organovo’s technology proves to be both reliable and consistent.

According to Murphy, the results also put Organovo ahead of rivals that have been working to develop 3-D tissue “spheroids” for use in pre-clinical drug toxicity screening, as well startups that are advancing semiconductor and micro-fluidic technologies capable of mimicking the functions of the liver and other organs. Just last month, for instance, Cambridge, MA-based Emulate raised $12 million in venture funding to advance work on a comprehensive “organ on a chip” and related technology developed at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute.

But so far, such technologies “haven’t come into use, because you can’t get the kind of data from their systems that we get in this kind of study,” Murphy says.

Organovo remains on track with its plans to launch a preclinical testing business for experimental drug compounds before the end of this year. He says the company plans to offer contract research services based on its 3-D human liver tissue technology to drug discovery companies.

A spokeswoman for the company says it is important to note that Organovo’s 3-D human liver tissue consists of different cell types that would be found in a normal human liver. These cells also … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • http://www.insphero.com Jan Lichtenberg

    It would be interesting how Organovo and Keith Murphy justify any of the claims that they make. Advanced liver models, both in 2D micropatterns and 3D spheroids have been used to generate convincing and predictive toxicology data for many years. Many peer-reviewed publications by independent researchers clearly show their advantages. They are used and evaluated by nearly all major pharma companies. Organovo has nothing to show in this context … other than unsubstantiated claims that most often contradict published scientific literature. And not to forget: Organovo uses spheroids to make their products — no major breakthrough here.