Merck 'bio-inks' deal to use Organovo's 3D printed liver for preclinical studies

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Merck & Co. (MSD) is set to use Organovo's 3D printed human liver tissue in preclinical studies
Merck & Co. (MSD) is set to use Organovo's 3D printed human liver tissue in preclinical studies

Related tags Liver

Merck & Co. has struck a deal with Organovo to use a 3D printed human liver system for toxicology testing as a supplement to in vitro and preclinical animal testing.

San Diego, California-based research services firm Organova launched its first product last November, the exVive3D Human Liver Tissue for use in toxicology and other preclinical drug testing.

The system comprises of living human tissues created through the firm’s 3D bioprinting process, and in an SEC filing this week the firm said it had entered into a multi-year research collaboration agreement with Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside North America).

“The Agreement will give Merck access to Organovo’s commercial exVive3D Human Liver Tissue service,”​ the filing said, “and will also involve a collaboration to develop multiple custom tissue models utilizing the Company’s proprietary NovoGen Bioprinting Platform, for use in drug development”

Further details of the deal have not been disclosed but Organovo’s share price shot up more than 18% following the announcement.

The liver model is made from primary hepatocytes, endothelial cells, and hepatic stellates which are expanded and prepared into a ‘printable bioink. After being loaded onto a bioprinter and printed in a precise orientation, the tissues are conditioned into models with precise and reproducible architecture that can remain fully functional and stable for greater than 40 days.

According to the firm, the exVive3D system can provide human-specific data to aid in the prediction of liver tissue toxicity or ADME in the preclinical stage of drug development, and offers a number of advantages over cultured bacteria or mammalian cells used for in vitro​ profiling.

“The tissue provides the ability to measure analytical protein, gene expression, histologic, toxicological and metabolic endpoints with greater physiological relevance than traditional cell and tissue models over an extended in vitro lifespan,”​ Executive Vice President Michael Renard told this publication​ last year.

Organovo also announced its end of fiscal year 2015 earnings this week, with net revenues of around $571,000 for the year. However, following the launch of exVive3D, CFO Barry Michaels was optimistic about 2016.

“We expect to gain greater adoption from the global pharmaceutical community and look forward to partnering with them in the discovery and development of their products,”​ he said. “We enter fiscal 2016 with confidence and momentum and look forward to continued expansion of our platform technology across multiple industries utilizing various fully cellular tissues.”

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