January 25, 2014      

“Imagine being able to print human tissues on demand.”

This was the inspiration for start-up company Organovo as they set out to build the world?s first production 3-D bio-printer.

Step by step, we are developing ways to print the entire human body…

Because of its ability to pump out tailor-fit products, 3-D printing has seen a growing interest from the fields of prosthetics and medicine over the past several years.

Using 3-D scans, scientists at Cornell University have been able to successfully print ears for children using cells from a cow. Meanwhile, the folks at Washington State are custom-fitting bones, and researchers at Wake Forest are printing out skin graphs.


MEDCITY.COM:?The cost of bringing a therapeutic to market varies but was recently calculated to be an average of $5 billion.

Organovo?s 3-D printing platform for organs and organ tissue could make the cost of bringing therapeutics to market more cost-effective. How? It?s developing effective models for testing the efficacy and toxicology of medications in humans.

Organovo (NYSE: ONVO) is seeing progress from its work with liver cells. It expanded the life span of its bioprinted liver tissue from five days to 40 days.
Novel ways to test human tissue.

The benefit of Organovo’s product is that it allows researchers to test human tissue without having to use a living person. This removes both safety concerns and a major source of liability during clinical trials. So far, it’s a great start, but it certainly isn’t the holy grail for the company.

The ultimate goal for Organovo is to alleviate the process of organ procurement by printing out fully functional transplants. Today, nearly 20 percent of people who need an organ die waiting. The allocation process is not only difficult but also incredibly expensive ? there is simply too much demand and not enough supply.

Ambitiously enough, Organovo is looking to change that


In 2014, the company plans to produce the world’s first 3D-printed liver. If successful, Organovo could eventually obtain a virtual monopoly over the procurement of livers for transplant procedures. Typical cost of procurement for a liver is $71,000.

With 6,000 patients receiving liver transplants every year and another 1,400 patients who die waiting, Organovo is looking at exclusive access to a $525 million market in the U.S. alone.
There’s no doubt that this is a speculative and long-term play, but it may be an absolute blockbuster you don’t want to miss.

Next year, its first product launch will be a 3-D liver model for pharma customers for toxicology testing, according to an interview with Engineering.com.
The company?s approach focuses on 3-D bioprinting ? producing human tissue and ultimately human organs using inks composed of different human cells.

Liver cells ? particularly hepatocytes ? are widely used in labs to assess the potential toxicity or efficacy of drugs. The problem is they are tough to replicate outside the body and generally have a short life span. So a platform that can make them last 40 days is big news.

The motivation behind creating 3-D testing models for pre-clinical use is similar to organ-on-a-chip. Organovo?s 3-D liver model could help pharmaceutical companies spot potential problems with medication earlier, before it enters the clinic, so pharmaceutical companies can make more informed research and development decisions.

Long term, the company is developing 3-D printed arteries and tissue to aid patients with ailments ranging from trauma to heart disease ? disruptive healthcare technology in the future of healthcare.

Earlier this year, Organovo initiated a collaboration with Oregon Health & Science University?s Knight Cancer Institute to create 3-D models of breast and pancreatic tumors for researchers to use in drug discovery and development.

3-D printed organs are set to be a big part of the future of healthcare technology but this segment of the medical device industry remains in its early stages of development.

By 2025, Luxe Research projects 3-D printing in medicine will grow into a $1.9 billion industry.