30 Fabulous Companies of the Year 2020

Organovo: Changing the face of medicine


The human body is made up of different cell types and many technologies for printing these cells vary in their ability to ensure stability and viability of the cells during the manufacturing process. The methods used for 3D bioprinting of cells are photolithography, magnetic 3D bioprinting, stereolithography, and direct cell extrusion. In each process, a physical biopsy of an organ is required. Certain cells from the biopsy are isolated and multiplied. These cells are then mixed with a liquefied material that provides oxygen and other nutrients to keep them alive outside of the human body. The mixture is then placed in a printer cartridge and structured using the patients’ medical scans.

Organovo is an early-stage medical laboratory and research company which designs and develops functional, three dimensional human tissue (also known as 3D bioprinting technology) for medical research and therapeutic applications. Organovo was established in 2007 and is headquartered in San Diego, California. The company uses its internally developed NovoGen MMX Bioprinter for 3D bioprinting.The company bioprints and markets human tissues as a means of accelerating the preclinical drug testing and discovery process, enabling treatments to be created more quickly and at lower cost, and without immediate risks to living test subjects. Organovo has long-term expectations that this technology could be suitable for surgical therapy and transplantation. Organovo also partners with biopharmaceutical companies and academic medical centers to design, build, and validate more predictive in vitro tissues for disease modeling and toxicology. The living test tissues provide researchers the opportunity to test drugs before administering the drug to a living person; this bridges the gap between preclinical testing and clinical trials.

Organovo is actively developing its technology with the intention of eventually being able to replicate entire human organs for transplant.

3D Bioprinted Human Tissue

3D bioprinting is the automated fabrication of multicellular tissue via spatially defined deposition of cells. The ability to spatially control deposition in the x, y and z axes allows for creation of tissue-specific patterns or compartments, with in vivo-like architecture that mimics key aspects of native biology.

3D bioprinted tissues exhibit a microenvironment more suited to in vivo-like cellular function in comparison to traditional 2D monoculture (or monolayer co-cultures), as well as maintenance of a more defined architecture than is observed in self-aggregated co-culture models. 3D bioprinted tissues exhibit tissue-like density with highly organized cellular features, such as intercellular tight junctions and microvascular networks. The ability to create architectural compartments, with different cell types placed in discrete locations relative to each other, results in a microenvironment with cell-cell interactions similar to that of native tissues. This in turn results in proper expression and localization of key cellular functions – such as key metabolic enzymes and key transporters – over several weeks in culture. The responses of 3D bioprinted tissues to acute or chronic exposure of drugs and known toxins resemble what is observed in vivo and in the clinic.

Bioprinting Process

The bioprinting process starts with the identification of key architectural and compositional elements of a target tissue, and the creation of a design that can be utilized by a bioprinter to generate that tissue in the laboratory environment. The next step is to develop the bioprocess protocols required to generate the multi-cellular building blocks – also called bio-ink – from the cells that will be used to build the target tissue. While the bioprinting process is cell-agnostic, most of our bioprinted tissues utilize primary human cells in order to produce the in vivo-like physiology most relevant for drug testing and therapeutic applications. It sources many of its input cells through our subsidiary, Samsara Sciences.The bio-ink building blocks are then dispensed from a bioprinter, using a layer-by-layer approach that is scaled for the target output. Proprietary biogels may be incorporated for temporary support or as filler to create channels or void spaces within tissues to mimic features of native tissue. The bioprinting process can be tailored to produce tissues in a variety of formats, including micro-scale tissues contained in standard multi-well tissue culture plates. 

Meet the formidable CEO, Taylor J. Crouch

Mr. Crouch has been our CEO and President since 2017 and has over 25 years of experience building and leading technology, expertise and product-based companies in the life sciences and biotech industries. Prior to Organovo, he managed and served as an operational investor in a group of leading clinical research site companies.  Specifically, Mr. Crouch served as Chief Executive Officer at eStudySite, a position he held from January 2009 to June 2016; as Executive Chairman of Meridien Research from December 2013 to September 2016; and as a Director of the National Research Institute from September 2011 through July 2016.  He was instrumental in building these three sister companies, and helping them to achieve significant and profitable growth and to become recognized leaders in their respective fields of infectious disease, CNS disorders and metabolic disease.  Prior to this, Mr. Crouch served as Senior Vice President of Operations/President International at Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND) from 2005 to 2007, with responsibilities for new business development, technical operations, international sales and clinical research.  Prior to Ligand, he was President and Chief Operating Officer of Discovery Partners International (NASDAQ: formerly DPII – a large drug discovery services and technology provider).  Earlier in his career, he was Chief Executive Officer of Variagenics

“We are striving to change the face of medicine through clinical development of regenerative medicine therapies for treating disease and by enabling translational drug discovery.”