By Mike May, PhD
Increasing the scale of manufacturing organoids poses challenges in academic and industrial labs. The pursuit of this goal, however, is not new. In 2008, for example, scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, described lab-scale production of organoids that mimicked some features of cortical tissue. Given the potential to use organoids in drug development, many labs and companies look for ways to make larger batches of organoids.
Recently, stem-cell expert Veronika Sander, PhD, a research fellow in the department of molecular medicine and pathology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and her colleagues reported on an assay that can manufacture up to 1,000 kidney organoids at a time. In addition, a team of scientists in China developed a biobank that includes 37 patient-derived organoids that model colorectal cancer.
Not surprisingly, industry is the best so far at industrializing the scale of organoid production. On July 20, Molecular Devices announced its custom organoid expansion service. By using a proprietary, patent-pending bioreactor and bioprocessing, the company can scale up organoid production to the millions.
When asked how Molecular Devices works with customers, Vicky Marsh Durban, PhD, director of the company’s custom organoid services, says, “It would depend on how mature the customer is in terms of how well they know what they want, and how well they’ve thought through the considerations of what scale they want, how they’re going to use the organoids in the end, what their endpoint assays are going to be.”
Although Molecular Devices uses a semi-automated approach to manufacturing the organoids, the endpoint assays can vary between projects. “It’s different if your endpoint assay is a biochemical readout where you need at least a million cells to a well versus an imaging readout where you might need four or five organoids to get the results,” Durban explains.
Academic labs will probably keep making organoids as needed, but many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will just buy them—and in large quantities. That increase in scale emerged in large part on better bioreactors and advanced bioprocessing.