An Open Letter to Organovo Shareholders: Organovo Founder Sees Continued Success in Bioprinting

  • Keith Murphy, founder, former CEO and Chairman Emeritus of Organovo, says bioprinting and similar technologies are going strong and still growing
  • Companies in the space are finding support from institutional capital sources, and those with tools and service business models are achieving 40%+ per year revenue growth
  • Viscient Biosciences, Mr. Murphy’s current company, has already crossed a major milestone in the application of bioprinting to NASH drug discovery
  • Viscient incorporates into bioprinting additional cutting edge techniques, including single cell sequencing and bioinformatics tools
  • Major investment funds have expressed support for Viscient’s approach

SAN DIEGO--()--Organovo Founder Keith Murphy sent the following letter to company shareholders:

At the Organovo annual shareholder meeting in September, I heard a lot of voices asking how Organovo’s technology could help the company out of its position. Shareholders seemed perplexed that with $30 million and an incredible technology portfolio, there was no way forward. I agreed with that sentiment, but also, in my opinion as a stockholder, Organovo’s failure was a failure of its Board and management, so I felt that any attempted new effort would end up in the same place due to the limitations of existing company leadership.

The good news is that there is plenty to be done with bioprinting and 3D tissues. Companies in this space are getting off the ground and funded regularly, and companies with sound commercial execution are seeing revenue growth consistently at 40%+ per year. My company, Viscient Biosciences, has taken bioprinting to entirely new levels while using bioprinted tissues as disease models for drug research, and now has the opportunity to quickly develop drug candidates in partnership with pharmaceutical companies.

“Organoids,” which broadly captures the use of 3D tissue models in disease research, were featured on the cover of the June 2019 issue of Science, one of the world’s premier academic journals. This was an exciting recognition of the potential in this space. The use of human cell-based 3D models has the potential to displace use of animal models in drug discovery, which have led to very high rates of clinical failures.

At Viscient, we are further advanced than the research reviewed in Science, and we are in a leadership position in this field. We’ve taken our disease model and combined it with powerful technologies like single cell sequencing (see the IPO of 10X Genomics, whose technology we use extensively). By recreating the disease outside the body, “in a dish,” we’ve proven now that we can see novel, actionable results that can lead to new drugs and significant commercial deals with pharma.

Using the Viscient platform, we have already achieved a major milestone – the discovery of a novel pathway with a high level of validation to be involved with a major unmet medical need, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is expected to be a $40 billion revenue opportunity for pharma. There are currently no FDA approved drugs to treat NASH, yet it is expected to become the leading cause of liver transplant. We expect to have a drug candidate to treat the disease pathway we’ve found quickly, and, given our results and pharma’s interest in NASH, deals with one or more top 25 pharma companies in the near future.

This combination of the power of 3D bioprinting and drug discovery is made possible via my partnership with Jeff Miner, Viscient’s co-founder and CSO. He and his R&D team have built out a world class platform for novel drug discovery and incorporated into bioprinting new technologies, including integrated single cell RNAseq and bioinformatics tools. Jeff and several of his top team members brought drug discovery expertise to Viscient from Ardea, their previous success, which sold to AstraZeneca for $1.25 billion.

Major fund investors in Organovo took a look at what Viscient is doing and think it is top rate. The combination of using 3D tissues and single-cell sequencing technologies makes Viscient a leading innovator, and these are investors that put their money to work specifically on groundbreaking innovation. The investors told us that they either were “strong supporters” or that they were “fully supporting” Viscient. We look forward to leveraging that as we move to the next level.

Given the successes other companies have seen, Organovo’s plummeting fortunes clearly are no failure of the technology. I’m sure you felt the effects of many months of feeble investor engagement and communication, and the stock price surely did. That left no room for error, as did the incomprehensible and indefensible plan to limit a company with a robust platform technology to a single pipeline program.

For Viscient Biosciences, having investment funds with >$4 billion under management as supporters is a huge positive moving forward. Our technology crossed a major hurdle in 2019, hitting what I think is a world first: the validation in 3D liver tissue of a novel NASH pathway as an important drug target. There is a path to those funds’ investment dollars, and yours, being used to drive the continued success of bioprinting through Viscient. I look forward to finding that path with you in 2020!


Jessica Yingling, Ph.D.
Little Dog Communications Inc.

Release Summary

Open letter to Organovo shareholders from company’s founder on the state of bioprinting, recent successes, and opportunities for the future.



Jessica Yingling, Ph.D.
Little Dog Communications Inc.