New entity is developing a technology to test liver toxicity.

Battelle Ventures created Hepregen from research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with $5 million series A investment. The company is developing bioengineered solutions for drug development, and its current focus is a platform to predict the liver’s response to drugs.

Hepregen has an exclusive license agreement with MIT for 10 patents and patent applications, including two core patents and two applications that relate to the Hepregen microliver technology.

Hepregen obtained the first $3 million last summer, leaving an additional $2 million committed and available at management’s request. “The Series A funds will enable Hepregen to work in partnership with select companies and contract research organizations to assess the robustness of the platform for rational decision making and to prove its relevance to novel applications in drug discovery,” remarks president and CEO of the new company, Bernadette Fendrock.

“As with all our investments,” notes Mort Collins, Battelle Ventures general partner,  “we look for opportunities in which breakthrough technologies fill a key market need and mitigate marketplace pain. In the case of Hepregen, its in vitro model mimics the in vivo human liver offering a bioengineered solution for predicting the liver’s response to drugs along the path of development. The technology gives every indication of presenting a breakthrough for toxicity screening and a new platform for drug discovery.”

Fendrock adds, “Hepregen’s platform combines tissue engineering and microfabrication to create optimized, precise, and organized microlivers that are highly functional but streamlined in a multiwell industrial format.”

According to Fendrock, the human microlivers are stable for four to six weeks and rat microlivers are stable for 10-12 weeks in vitro. They may also be modified to represent diseased livers. As a 2-D system, multiwell plates containing the microlivers can fit in existing robotic fluid-handling systems for medium- to high-throughput screening applications and are also amenable to plate readers and automated microscopy use.

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