AstraZeneca, Novoheart to Co-Develop New Heart Model

Xconomy National — 

AstraZeneca has turned to Novoheart’s “human heart-in-a-jar” technology to create a preclinical model that mimics a form of heart failure for which there is no effective therapy available.

Based on Novoheart’s human ventricular cardiac organoid chamber (hvCOC) technology, the companies are aiming to develop a new in vitro model that can reproduce the characteristics of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). In this condition—which occurs in 40 to 60 percent of patients with heart failure—the heart pumps normally, but is too stiff to fill properly.

“Novoheart brings expertise in tissue-engineered cardiac models derived from healthy and patient induced pluripotent stem cells,” Bill Williams, senior vice president of commercial operations at Novoheart, tells Xconomy, speaking to the collaboration. On its side, AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) brings disease biology expertise in the area of HFpEF.

Per the agreement, Novoheart will exclusively own the intellectual property rights to the HFpEF hvCOC model.

According to the Vancouver, BC-headquartered company, the hvCOC is the first of its kind available on the market enabling researchers to assess how well the heart pumps blood. Dubbed a “human heart-in-a-jar,” the models, also called organoids, are created using patient-specific human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Other companies are using organoids as part of their drug development efforts as well, including Chinook Therapeutics, which in August closed a $65 million Series A round to target kidney disease. Cambridge, MA-based Goldfinch Bio, also developing treatments for kidney disease, has previously described plans to use organoids in its discovery work.

Novoheart is working with several other biotech and pharmaceutical companies, says Williams, including Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). As part of two research contracts with the company’s safety pharmacology and rare disease research units, Novoheart published two studies. The first outlined the company’s ability to classify 90 percent of drugs provided by Pfizer in a blinded study—further validating the human heart-in-a-jar technology.

The second study detailed Novoheart’s development of what it calls the world’s first customized, 3D engineered, human cardiac tissue model of Friedreich’s ataxia. It is currently commercializing the disease model and has confirmed multiple contracts with drug developers.

Novoheart also earlier this year acquired Xellera Therapeutics, giving the company access to a facility in China for generating clinical-grade human stem cell lines. Following this deal, Novoheart says it is now developing gene- and cell-based therapies and other therapeutics for cardiac repair or regeneration.

(Main image courtesy of Novoheart)