US biotech injects 3D printing expertise into Victorian artificial kidney project

13 Jun 2019

San Diego-based biotechnology company, Organovo Holdings (Organovo), has announced a tie up with a Melbourne research institute to help develop regenerative medicine in Australia.

Organovo will inject its 3D printing expertise into an existing research project run by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), which also includes scientists from Leiden University in the Netherlands. The project goal is to create 3D bio-printed stem cell-based kidney tissue to help treat end-stage kidney disease.

More than 4,000 Australians are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease each year. MCRI estimates it costs the Australian economy $1 billion per year.

The collaboration between Organovo and MCRI is part funded by Stem Cells Australia (SCA) which is a major sponsor of research into regenerative medicine in Australia. According to Professor Melissa Little, who is Program Leader at SCA and Biology Director for MCRI, the project aims to create transplantable human tissue that will provide a degree of kidney function.

‘We are trying to find an alternative that [delivers] a better quality of life for a patient with renal failure,’ she says.

The project builds on exceptional scientific research to date. Little is a world-leader in modelling human kidneys, and is currently collaborating with Professor Ton Rabelink of Leiden University. In 2015, Little’s team became the first in the world to grow a kidney organoid in a petri dish. In late 2018, the MCRI team successfully transplanted laboratory-grown kidney tissue into mice.

Referring to the tie up with Organovo, Little comments: ‘It is very exciting, and it allows us to focus on a product, rather than just answering interesting biological questions.’

Organovo Chief Executive Officer, Taylor J Crouch, hopes that his company’s powerful bioprinting technology will help the MCRI project turn a scientific breakthrough into a practical treatment.

‘Partnerships with world-class institutions can accelerate groundbreaking work in finding cures for critical un-met disease needs, and the development of implantable therapeutic tissues,’ he says.

MCRI is the largest child-health research institute in Australia and one of the top three worldwide. It includes1200 researchers and is dedicated to making discoveries to prevent and treat childhood conditions. It is affiliated to the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

SCA was established in 2011 and has received A$24 million in support from Australian Research Council (ARC). SCA also receives funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Foundation Fund.