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Lab-Grown Tissue Company Gains $38M in Seed Funds

Andrei Georgescu and Dan Huh in the lab

Andrei Georgescu, left, and Dan Huh in the lab at University of Pennsylvania in 2019. (Kevin Monko, Penn Today)

22 Nov. 2023. A company producing tissue samples in the lab, for drug discovery and preclinical research with robotics and artificial intelligence, raised $38 million in seed funding. Vivodyne, a three year-old biotechnology enterprise in Philadelphia, is based on research at University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute.

Vivodyne aims to accelerate drug discovery and preclinical testing by creating life-like human tissues for assessing new treatments before clinical trials. Results of this testing, says the company, can also simulate and help design subsequent clinical trials. Vivodyne says its process creates human tissue, including blood vessels, as three-dimensional working samples called organoids on microfluidic chips that simulate organ functions. Organoids are cultured and produced from stem cells, then tested under varying conditions. The company says its organoid models now include bone marrow, small and large airways, liver, solid tumors, pancreas, intestine, placental barrier, uterus for placental implantation, skeletal muscle, and blood-brain barrier.

By using robotics, says Vivodyne, it can simultaneously test an experimental drug with human tissue organoids under various doses and multiple conditions on large numbers of samples. Data from responses of cells and tissue are captured in real time, including images. The company says it uses predictive machine learning models to generate likely responses of single cells and tissue to drug interventions, as well as effects on gene expression, transcription, and protein synthesis. These predictive models, says Vivodyne, can extend the analysis further to the context of known drug interactions, to simulate safety and efficacy outcomes in clinical trials.

“Improve the success rates of A.I.-generated drugs”

Vivodyne was begun in 2020 by biomedical engineering professor Dan Dongeun Huh at University of Pennsylvania and Andrei Georgescu who received his doctorate in Huh’s lab at UPenn. Georgescu and Huh are now the company’s CEO and chief scientist respectively. Huh joined the UPenn faculty in 2013, following work at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, where he served in that group’s pioneering work with organs on chips. Science & Enterprise reported on a panel led by Huh discussing organ-chips at a scientific meeting in Feb. 2018.

“By combining the principles of organoids and organs-on-chips, we’ve created a new class of life-like, lab-grown human organs,” says Georgescu in a company statement released through Business Wire. Georgescu adds, “The result is huge amounts of complex human data, larger than you could get from any clinical trial, and we train multimodal models on this data to predict and improve the safety and efficacy of new drugs. This breakthrough not only enhances the predictive accuracy of A.I. in drug development, but also promises to significantly improve the success rates of A.I.-generated drugs, setting a new standard in the field.”

Vivodyne is raising $38 million in seed funds, led by technology start-up investor Khosla Ventures in Menlo Park, California. Taking part in the seed round are Kairos Ventures, CS Ventures, MBX Capital, and Bison Ventures. According to Crunchbase, Vivodyne raised $2 million in pre-seed financing in Mar. 2021 from Kairos Ventures. “Vivodyne’s technology,” says Khosla Ventures partner Alex Morgan, “bridges the gap between preclinical R&D and human clinical trials, while automating every step of the testing pipeline, from growing tissues, dosing, sampling and imaging, to analyzing data.”

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