Tevido BioDevices and Organovo admit tough times ahead


An article was published in the Guardian today titled “3D printing human organs – but where’s the money for it?“. This article discussed Tevido Biodevices, a private company looking to print breast tissue, as well as Organovo. Tevido was founded by Laura Bosworth-Bucher, a retired Fortune 50 Executive turned entrepreneur and director of metallurgical and materials engineering at University of Texas El Paso, Thomas Boland. According to an article by BioNews Texas, Dr. Boland has modified a standard HP Deskjet 340 printer into a machine that can rearrange the cellular structure of living materials to match the tissue of any patient.

The article emphasized that the technology at this point has a long way to go before commercialization.

No printhead design has produced the detailed resolution needed for fragile cells that constitute tissues and organs, said Linda Griffith, director of the Center of Gynepathology Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

And Tevido’s estimate to market:

Laura Bosworth, CEO and co-founder of TeVido estimates seven more years and $40m of tests, including innumerable grant applications and attempts to woo reluctant venture capitalists.

And Organovo’s estimate to market:

Mikael Renard, executive vice president of Organovo’s commercial operations, says more funding would likely enable the company to succeed in a shorter timeframe, though for now 3D printed organs remain decades away.

Decades in plural form sounds disheartening. The appetite for venture capitalists to invest in such technology is also weak:

In the hierarchy of venture capital interest, software companies are at the top, boosted by their comparable ease and low cost despite their high rate of failure. Healthcare comes after, promising excellent long-term returns if investors have the patience. Bioprinting is somewhere near the bottom, requiring patience for long-term investment and US Food and Drug Administration hurdles.

Lastly the market size outlook from Lux Research is not so optimistic:

The market for 3D printing is expected to grow to $8.4bn by 2025, according to Lux Research’s report. Bioprinting’s contribution will be negligible by that stage, said Anthony Vicari, a research associate for the report. Most of the medical industry’s $1.9 billion share of the market will come from 3D printed medical devices and orthopedic parts.

However there was some optimism expressed:

But that shouldn’t put off investors, Salehizadeh said, who pointed out the time it took after the birth of the computer era before its technology took off and proved profitable – Microsoft was founded in 1975 and didn’t go public until 1986. Furthermore, backing bioprinting could prove profitable beyond just the bottom line.

What seems most disheartening for Organovo investors were the time to market estimates given; “decades”. Given that Tevido acknowledges difficulties finding funding and doesn’t seem to have any venture capital backing currently, it seems likely that Tevido does not pose much of a competitive threat to Organovo.

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