Exclusive: Organovo CEO On The Role Of 3D Printing In Health Care

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3D printing has found its way into a number of industries, including healthcare and medical technology.

Organovo Holdings Inc ONVO, in particular, is one of the companies researching how 3D-printed technology can be useful in medical fields. The company focuses on the design and creation of three-dimensional human tissues for use in medical research and therapeutic applications.

Organovo recently announced a partnership with the Yale School of Medicine to develop bio-printed tissues for surgical transplantation. CEO Keith Murphy was kind enough to take the time to sit down with Benzinga and talk about how 3D printing is changing the world of health care.

The Man

BZ: Why did you decide to join Organovo?

KM: “The opportunity to make something of 100 percent of cells, to me just from a big picture perspective, made a lot of sense because if you can create a tissue that is made entirely of cells, there is no reason that it shouldn’t behave like a tissue. We work at a very small scale right now so we are making, what I would say is small tissue but that gives the best possible functional connection to a native organ and then we will still face the challenge in the future of growing that to be a larger organ.”

The Technology

BZ: What role does 3D printing play in health care?

KM: “There is a broad set of 3D printing activities in health care. We represent one aspect of that. Again we are working with the living cells. If you look at some of the things that a company known as Medical Modeling [now a part of 3D Systems] was doing and they have been acquired previous systems but they do work on helping physicians build for example specific implants out of plastic or metal for a patient that are going to be sized to that patient which I think is really powerful application. Some of the things you will see in 3D printing in the medical space are traditional materials used in medical devices and I thing that is a really powerful application. That is something that you are going to see other companies doing and then we are working on the cellular side.”

The Company 

BZ: What does Organovo, specifically, with 3D printing?

KM: “There is a number of applications on our side as well. For example, research use of these tissues, that is the immediate use, so we are already and that is one of the reasons we are talking because we have launched 3D liver for use and drug research and the application there is basically in a nutshell to be better than potentially displaced animal models because animal models can only be so good in terms of their prediction value for drug. You see a lot of drug fail in human trials and that is because you don’t have perfect information when you enter a human trial.
“Now, I am not saying we are going to get people's perfect information but I think can we make that information a lot better by the time they get in to the human. I think we can. I think the data we are showing in liver is already starting to lay that out people. The second big pipe of application is going to be building these tissues for direct implant so think about making a liver patch that can help someone who has failing liver function. Think about a heart muscle patch for someone who had a heart attack for example.

The Partnership

BZ: Organovo recently announced a partnership with the Yale School of Medicine. Can you tell me more about that?

KM: “The Yale work is definitely targeted towards trying to make tissues and eventually organs for transplant. One thing to notice that it is actually, our strategy to work with great academic centers to do that because that work in terms of getting into a full organ, in to getting to larger structures than we do today as I mentioned that we have to build larger structures. That is the work that is better for us to partner with people who can get outside funding and advance that work rather than us spending our direct capital on it. We will provide the printer, we provide expertise.
“The Methuselah Foundation, if you saw the announcement, is providing some of the funding other funding will of course come from federal agencies as it applies for grants, something’s like that. Then we can solve some of the challenges that are necessary to make bigger tissues, one of those is actually making blood vessels in side of larger tissues because that is something that is going to be necessary to vast the variety of tissues.”

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