Today, we have to share some bad news about Organovo and its liver tissue bioprinting program.
Present state and future steps
Organovo, a biotechnology company currently valued at $45M and most well-known for researching bioprinting technologies – the creation of artificial organs – has recently announced that it is suspending its artificial liver tissue program due to concerns about the program’s inconclusive data and the potential time, cost, and risks that would be taken to redevelop the tissue. The company is currently looking for alternative projects to take this program’s place.
Organovo does have other projects currently ongoing, and its other major program involves the printing of kidney tissue. That is a particularly important area for bioprinting, due to the kidney’s lack of any regenerative potential.
SAN DIEGO, Aug. 07, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Organovo Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:ONVO) (“Organovo”) today announced that it has engaged Roth Capital Partners (“Roth”) as its financial advisor to assist in the exploration of strategic alternatives. This decision was reached by Organovo’s board of directors after concluding that the Company had not generated decisive scientific data supporting the prolonged functionality and therapeutic benefit of its lead therapeutic liver tissue candidate, and that the necessary redevelopment of the tissue would require significant time, additional resources and development risks, and would likely not provide sufficient return on investment for the Company’s stockholders. To support the range of strategic alternatives being explored, the Company is also implementing a restructuring plan to significantly reduce expenses associated with its lead program in order to preserve cash.
“After a rigorous assessment of our liver therapeutic tissue program, we’ve concluded that the variability of biological performance and related duration of potential benefits presents development challenges and lengthy timelines that no longer support an attractive opportunity given our resources,” said Taylor J. Crouch, CEO, Organovo. “As a result, we’ve suspended development of this lead program and have engaged Roth to explore strategic alternatives focused on maximizing stockholder value. We’re also taking restructuring steps to manage our resources and extend our cash runway as we evaluate a range of ways to generate value from our technology platform and intellectual property, our commercial and development capabilities, and our financial assets.”
The Company has cancelled its fiscal first-quarter 2019 earnings call scheduled for August 8, 2019 as a result of today’s announcement. Potential strategic alternatives that may be explored or evaluated as part of this process include the potential for an acquisition, merger, reverse merger, business combination, sale of assets, licensing or other strategic transaction involving the Company. There can be no assurance, however, that this process will result in any such transaction.
While the loss of this program is tragic, the liver is an organ with great regenerative capacity . Although the rate of this regeneration declines with aging , it is entirely possible that liver regeneration could be induced by reducing inflammatory intercellular signaling, such as by using senolytics to remove senescent cells, which secrete factors that promote inflammation and turn other cells senescent. As inflammation impairs tissue repair, removing it could potentially help the liver regenerate itself.
Overall, we should take one message from this situation: we should foster the growth of many startups that use many different sensible approaches to tackle the challenges of aging. This way, if one fails, we have other methods to fall back on. The history of science is filled with promising interventions that have gone unused for decades, either because they went unnoticed by their initial discoverers or because no one was willing or able to pursue them as therapies.
Pro-active measures of broadening our approach, such as asking researchers if they are following a particular line of therapy, looking out for other opportunities, and building startups where possible, give us the best chance of bringing aging under medical control quickly and effectively.
 Mao, S. A., Glorioso, J. M., & Nyberg, S. L. (2014). Liver regeneration. Translational Research, 163(4), 352-362.
 Schmucker, D. L., & Sanchez, H. (2011). Liver regeneration and aging: a current perspective. Current gerontology and geriatrics research, 2011.