Organovo has developed bioprinter technology that uses human cells to print functional human tissue. The company wants to eventually be able to print human organs that can be used in transplants.

Organovo has developed bioprinter technology that uses human cells to print functional human tissue. The company wants to eventually be able to print human organs that can be used in transplants.

Backers stepped up and invested $6.5 million in Organovo Inc. as the company completed a complicated reverse merger and issuance of 22.4 million shares of common stock in a private stock offering. Investors are betting the company’s novel 3-D printer technology for producing live human tissue will find a larger market beyond pharmaceutical drug development.

The goal of the deal, Organovo CEO Keith Murphy said, was to give the company “access to capital markets and potential future investors.”

As of Feb. 14, Organovo trades over the counter under the symbol ONVO.

Up until now, the company has been running a lean operation on $3 million raised in 2009 from undisclosed angel investors, Murphy said. There are no changes to the management team or operations as a result of the transaction.

Organovo will use the funds to advance its proprietary bioprinting process, which involves a computerized 3-D modeling program and an automated device called the NovoGen MMX Bioprinter. The system can produce blood vessels and an array of organ tissues on demand with an “ink” made of live human cells derived from research labs or patients.

A ‘Best Invention’

Organovo’s bioprinting technology has already garnered headlines in national publications ranging from BusinessWeek to Time magazine, where it landed a spot on “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010.”

The company wants to be able to make the technology available for surgeons so they can have tissue available for grafting, and eventually produce entire transplantable human organs — a goal it says “could be achieved on a short time scale” if it had a major funding boost from the U.S. government.

Federal funding to the company so far has amounted to just under $400,000, according to Organovo’s recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At present, Organovo is finding the most success licensing its bioprinting technology to big pharmaceutical companies, which use the system to create human tissue for drug development and testing, Murphy said.

The company has ongoing research agreements with New York-based Pfizer Inc. and Silver Spring, M.D.-based United Therapeutics Corp., according to a regulatory filing. Terms of those deals were not disclosed. Murphy said that Organovo typically seeks royalties and milestone payments on any drugs developed from the technology.

Legos and Human Building Blocks

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Gabor Forgacs said bioprinted organ material can help pharmaceutical companies save money during drug development.

“In the last 15 years, the number of drugs approved by the FDA has dramatically decreased,” he said in his October presentation at the TedMed health innovation conference in San Diego.

“There is one point in the drug development process where many drugs indeed fail,” said Forgacs, a biophysics professor at the University of Missouri. “This happens when the transition takes places from pre-clinical animal trials to the human clinical trials.”

By engineering a small clump of liver tissue or other organs with Organovo’s lab equipment, drug companies can test their product on human samples before moving on to expensive and potentially harmful human clinical trials, he said.

Murphy said there are other bioprinting companies out there, but none that can build live tissues using only human cells — with no foreign material. Organovo does this through a process in which cells bond to one another naturally with collagen, he said.

“Think about making something out of Legos,” Murphy said. “That’s what we do. But instead of plastic blocks, we use human cells. We put the right cell types into the right positions to make the right kind of tissue.”

Organovo’s bioprinting technology has already garnered headlines in national publications ranging from BusinessWeek to Time magazine, where it landed a spot on “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010.”

The company wants to be able to make the technology available for surgeons so they can have tissue available for grafting, and eventually produce entire transplantable human organs — a goal it says “could be achieved on a short time scale” if it had a major funding boost from the U.S. government.

Federal funding to the company so far has amounted to just under $400,000, according to Organovo’s recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At present, Organovo is finding the most success licensing its bioprinting technology to big pharmaceutical companies, which use the system to create human tissue for drug development and testing, Murphy said.

The company has ongoing research agreements with New York-based Pfizer Inc. and Silver Spring, M.D.-based United Therapeutics Corp., according to a regulatory filing. Terms of those deals were not disclosed. Murphy said that Organovo typically seeks royalties and milestone payments on any drugs developed from the technology.

Legos and Human Building Blocks

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Gabor Forgacs said bioprinted organ material can help pharmaceutical companies save money during drug development.

“In the last 15 years, the number of drugs approved by the FDA has dramatically decreased,” he said in his October presentation at the TedMed health innovation conference in San Diego.

“There is one point in the drug development process where many drugs indeed fail,” said Forgacs, a biophysics professor at the University of Missouri. “This happens when the transition takes places from pre-clinical animal trials to the human clinical trials.”

By engineering a small clump of liver tissue or other organs with Organovo’s lab equipment, drug companies can test their product on human samples before moving on to expensive and potentially harmful human clinical trials, he said.

Murphy said there are other bioprinting companies out there, but none that can build live tissues using only human cells — with no foreign material. Organovo does this through a process in which cells bond to one another naturally with collagen, he said.

“Think about making something out of Legos,” Murphy said. “That’s what we do. But instead of plastic blocks, we use human cells. We put the right cell types into the right positions to make the right kind of tissue.”