Penn Center for Innovation

Vivodyne is the latest startup from Penn Bioengineering to raise $4 million in Seed Funding, led by Kairos Ventures

Posted on March 29, 2021 — Jessica Jones Gupta

Vivodyne, a bio-pharma startup from Penn Bioengineering, announced it has raised $4 million in seed funding. Vivodyne is developing a new bio-pharma discovery pipeline that starts and ends in lab-grown human tissue.

This funding round is led by Kairos Ventures, a company that invests in scientific discoveries and commercializes them into viable businesses. The $4 million investment will support the development of platform technology that aims to speed up the discovery of cures to a variety of human diseases.

“Vivodyne is creating an incredible platform technology that allows thousands and thousands of individually lab-grown, living pieces of human organs to be cultivated at a time, with stunning realism and scientific consistency,” said Andrei Georgescu, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vivodyne. “By testing drugs and life-saving biologics directly on these realistic human tissues at an unprecedented scale and resolution, we can greatly improve the success rates of therapeutics entering clinical trials by being much more certain of their safety and effectiveness ahead of time.”

Vivodyne’s living, lab-grown human bone marrow tissue recreates the continuous turnover of blood stem cells into a wide variety of specialized white blood cells. This model of the bone marrow allows scientists to test the effectiveness and safety of drugs that may treat people of diseases including immunocompromization and anemia.

But scientists believe the technology can do much more than just accelerate the development of therapeutics. “To cure cancers, we first have to understand them. Vivodyne’s platform provides the unique opportunity to visualize cancers in real time as the complex tissues they are, from immune features to vascular biology. This will undoubtedly lead to new insights and opportunities for precision medicine,” said Dr. Ben Stanger, Hanna Wise Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Penn Pancreatic Cancer Research Center. He has worked for several years with Andrei Georgescu and Dr. Dan Huh — co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Vivodyne, and himself an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

A tumor model from Vivodyne shows clumps of cancerous tissue (blue) along with the outward colonization of tumor support cells called tumor-associated fibroblasts (green), and early growth of blood vessels (fuchsia).

Vivodyne’s platform was originally developed at Penn in the BIOLines Laboratory, which Dr. Huh directs. “Several years ago, we developed tools to emulate human organs in living benchtop platforms, but these are handmade and really difficult to get right. They’re a bit different each time, and they’re made from materials that don’t interface well with the enormous scale and consistency that drug companies need,” said Dr. Huh. “With Vivodyne, we’ve finally bridged that gap by automating every aspect of cultivating, testing, and analyzing these tissues’ responses to drugs and environmental stimuli with superhuman speed and precision. When bright scientists are no longer consumed by finicking with pumps, tubes, and scalpels, it gives them more time to discover and invent the future of medicine.”

Vivodyne’s model of the human lung airways allows scientists the opportunity to study aspects of complex diseases, like chronic bacterial infection by Pseudomonas bacteria in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis. Vivodyne promises scientists the ability to experiment on thousands of independent, near-identical copies of bioengineered human tissues just like this one, right on the benchtop, without ever having to test on people or sacrifice animals.

“Vivodyne’s groundbreaking approach to scaling experimentation on bioengineered human tissues — which promise to better predict human responses to drugs than animal testing — has tremendous potential to improve people’s lives,” said Alex Andrianopoulos, Chief R&D Officer at Kairos Ventures. “We see it as a true breakthrough in medicine, by revolutionizing drug development and producing successful pharmaceuticals earlier and more frequently. We are very excited to partner with Vivodyne’s fantastic team and help bring this transformative technology to market.”

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