This will be a dramatic development for Organovo. Their bioprinters allow scientists to deposit cells and grow functional human tissues for use in medical research. They’re amazingly powerful 21st-century tools, but run on software left over from the Apollo era. Every time a scientist wants to print something, they have to write a script from scratch and run it from the command line. Instead of dreaming up new experiments, biologists have been kept busy debugging code.
Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo says “Having 3-D design software will help scientists get to experiments faster, as well as make it easier for external academic experts to approach the our systems.”
Integration for the partnership will begin in earnest in 2013, but before we see scientific breakthroughs, though, there will be a period of catch up. “In many ways the first project is making a lateral transfer of technology.” says Olguin. “The level of maturity for bioprinting software is at the command line. Even if the first version of the software is just the UI, parametric modeling, and tools that have been used for the last 10-15 years in CAD packages, it will represent a huge improvement over the current state of the art.”
The first “apps” on the Organovo platform will be simple tissues which could be ready for clinical trials in just 5 or 6 years. This is an eternity in smartphone cycles, but is a breakneck pace in healthcare. Until then, Organovo will continue to serve researchers at pharma companies that give the public 3-D printer company a steady stream of revenue, a fact Murphy says is a “fairly novel thing for an early stage life science company.”