New Biotech Viscient Partners with Organovo on Fatty Liver Disease

Xconomy San Diego — 

It struck me as a little perplexing when Organovo (NASDAQ: ONVO) announced in April that CEO Keith Murphy was departing to pursue “entrepreneurial opportunities.”

The San Diego company, founded a decade ago on 3D bio-printing technology developed by the University of Missouri’s Gabor Forgacs, appeared to be gaining momentum on multiple fronts. Organovo had built a thriving business under Murphy as a contract research organization, enabling big pharmaceutical companies to screen on pea-sized samples of 3D-printed liver cells. In a related initiative, Organovo began moving to develop larger “patches” of 3D-printed human liver tissue for potential use in transplantation in patients with fatal liver disease.

The company also was developing separate lines of business in bio-printing 3D samples of kidney cells for screening pre-clinical drug candidate on living human kidney tissue, as well as 3D-printed skin tissue for evaluating cosmetic products.

So why leave a good thing?

As it turns out, Murphy said he saw an opportunity to develop new drugs for treating non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and other types of fatty liver disease by forming a new biotech with Jeffrey Miner, a scientific director at San Diego’s Ardea Biosciences and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), after the pharmaceutical giant acquired Ardea for over $1.2 billion in 2012.

“My whole plan was always to be a serial entrepreneur,” Murphy said.

Keith Murphy

The new biotech, San Diego-based Viscient Biosciences, is announcing today that it plans to collaborate with Organovo to help establish a disease model for fatty liver disease in bio-printed 3D liver samples. Understanding the progression of fatty liver disease and the development of new drugs was previously constrained by … Next Page »

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