After signing a groundbreaking deal with cosmetics company L’Oreal for the development of 3D printed skin for cosmetics testing, Organovo continues to make partners in powerful places. On April 17, the bioprinting company filed a Form 8-K with the SEC stating a multi-year partnership with pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. that involves both the use of the company’s exVive3D liver tissues and the use of their NovoGen Bioprinting system for developing medicines. The exact wording of the document is as follows:
On April 17, 2015, Organovo (NYSE: ONVO) entered into a multi-year research collaboration agreement with Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (NYSE: MRK). The Agreement will give Merck access to Organovo’s commercial exVive3DTM Human Liver Tissue service, and will also involve a collaboration to develop multiple custom tissue models utilizing the Company’s proprietary NovoGen Bioprinting PlatformTM, for use in drug development.
This deal, along with the pre-announcement of preliminary Q4 and 2014 earnings, drove the company’s stock up about 17% this morning, before it dropped back down almost 2% below its last closing stock price. But, forget stock prices! The company is on a roll lately. In addition to partnerships, Organovo just announced the development of 3D printed kidney cells, which can be further used to test the affects of medicines.
Merck, according to Wikipedia, has had more drugs approved than any other company, some of which are used for the treatment of diabetes, high cholesterol, autoimmune diseases, HIV, and HPV. Though Merck has also been responsible for failing to pay Medicaid rebates and occasional pollution, the company seems to have addressed those controversies, once they were revealed to the public and federal agencies. My fingers are crossed that this member of Big Pharma is one of the “good ones”, but, then again, the world is a scary place. And, because Merck is famous for developing the first mumps, rubella, Hepatitis B, and varicella vaccines, I’m hoping that they’ll also be the first pharmaceutical business to develop medicines using 3D printed liver cells. And, if things go really well with Organovo, maybe they’ll even be the first to 3D print entire livers.