Can 3-D Printing of Living Tissue Speed Up Drug Development?

Every year, the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $50 billion on research and development. But the path to drug approval by the Food and Drug Administration is laden with abrupt failures in late-phase testing. One small biology company believes it has a solution to the pipeline problem: 3-D printing.

Only one in 5,000 drugs will make it to market, according to one estimate.

At San Diego-based Organovo Holdings Inc., the idea is to predict the toxicity of a drug in its earliest days by testing it on real, living human liver tissue—created at the click of a button with a 3-D printer. For 42 days the slivers of tissue will respond to drugs the same way a full-size human liver would. According to Organovo, this trumps current methods of early-stage drug trials, including petri dishes of cells—which stop functioning like livers after a few days—and animals, which don’t consistently react to drugs as a patient would. … (read more)