Sep 14, 2017 | By Benedict

Prellis Biologics, a San Francisco-based human tissue engineering company, says it has invented a new way to create viable human organs using 3D printing. The company has also raised $1.8 million in a seed funding round.

Prellis Biologics co-founders Dr. Noelle Mullin (left) and Dr. Melanie Matheu (right)

Many companies are experimenting with the possibility of 3D printing human tissue and organs, but Prellis Biologics reckons its own technologies have the edge over others. The reason? They can purportedly 3D print complex microvascular systems, which are needed to supply nutrients and oxygen to cells.

“Our vision is to create a company that uses technology to print any type of human organ, providing people with a long-lasting solution to a given medical issue,” said Dr. Melanie Matheu, co-founder and chief executive officer of Prellis. “We believe our technology will jumpstart the practical use of lab-printed tissue for life-saving drug development, rapid development of human antibodies, and production of human organs for transplant.”

And it looks like people are starting to buy into Matheu’s vision. Prellis has just received $1.8 million of investment for its 3D printing technologies after True Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm specializing in early-stage technology startups, led a seed investment round.

Other investors included Civilization Ventures and 415 Ventures, along with various angel investors. Prellis had previously received investment from IndieBio, an accelerator for biotech startups run by SOSV, and investment in 10-month-old Prellis now totals $1.92 million.

Prellis is in no doubt that its exploration of microvasculature 3D printing techniques is driving this investment interest. By building scaffolding that includes microvascular structures, Prellis says it can make tissue supplied with oxygen and nutrients and the ability to remove waste. Thicker tissues, the company says, are the building blocks of functional organs.

And the startup’s new printing tech is, crucially, fast enough to print human organs that will remain viable. With its current prototype, the Prellis team can print a model of a kidney in 16 to 24 hours.

“Over 230 people die every day in the U.S. from liver and kidney disease,” said Dr. Noelle Mullin, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Prellis. “By coupling stem cell and immunology expertise with our 3D printing technology, we’ll be able to produce organs and tissues with the precise vascular infrastructure necessary to make them viable.”

Bringing Prellis’ new 3D printing tech to market will be a gradual affair. The first lab-grown tissues will be used to produce antibodies for therapeutics, and will address issues associated with pharmaceutical development and testing. This will reduce the need for animal testing and other less effective procedures.

The first printed tissues will be islets of langerhans, the functional unit of the pancreas that produces insulin. “Type 1 diabetics lose insulin-producing islets of langerhans at a young age,” Matheau said. “If we can replace these, we can offer diabetes patients a life free of daily insulin shots and glucose monitoring.”

The company is confident it can get these early tissues to clinical trials very quickly, but may have to wait a couple of years before implanting larger, more complex organs.

In the longer term, Prellis has big ambitions. The company says it aims to eliminate the wait list for human organ transplants and speed up development of vital new drug therapies using its microvasculature printing technologies.

With the extra $1.8 million in the bank, it can start to think seriously about achieving those goals, starting with an expansion of its workforce from four people to eight to 10 people by the end of the year. Prellis will also move to a larger laboratory and invest in a more powerful laser system that can 3D print islets for transplant within 30 minutes.

“Producing viable lab-grown human tissue will revolutionize healthcare, and the Prellis team is at the forefront of that movement,” commented Rohit Sharma, venture partner at True Ventures and Prellis board member. “Investing in Melanie and Noelle is an investment in the future of regenerative medicine. We’re proud to help them begin their quest.”



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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