Background Information

Thank you for your interest in Viscient’s proposal to merge with Organovo and utilize the powerful 3D bioprinting technology in Organovo’s portfolio in its drug discovery efforts.

Viscient Biosciences is a San Diego-based biotech company focused on utilizing 3D tissue technology to develop drugs across a range of therapeutic areas. Founded by a combination of former Organovo and Ardea Biosciences / AstraZeneca scientists and entrepreneurs, Viscient is driving a revolution in drug discovery. For too long, drug discovery has primarily been done in animal models. However, the clinical failure rate for drugs discovered using this paradigm hovers around 88%. 

Viscient saw an opportunity to change the old model using 3D bioprinted tissues and other 3D models (sometimes known as “organoids” or “organs on a chip”). Our platform involves replacing animals in the discovery process with a more relevant model using human cells as the basis to study human disease, and by putting the cells into a 3D tissue so they express true biology in areas where this has been a challenge. Importantly, Viscient is a drug (therapeutics) company, seeking to only develop new therapies. We do not sell services or access to bioprinting or other research tools. We find novel drugs.

At Viscient, we are experts at:
  • building clinically relevant 3D tissue models;

  • determining where the models add value compared to current technology;

  • integrating 3D across the discovery platform, with multiple 3D disease models; 

  • integrating cutting edge analytical methods to get the most out of 3D tissues; and

  • seeing novel biology, novel targets, and new opportunities to impact disease.

The ability to access Organovo’s technology provides a unique opportunity to enhance our drug discovery platform and we successfully used it with 3D bioprinted liver tissue on additional tissues. By incorporating bioprinted kidney, intestine and other tissues into the process as disease models themselves, we can seek to find high-value new treatments for kidney fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other difficult to treat diseases. The power of 3D tissues is that they offer value where pharma has the most trouble, for the natural reason that pharma’s trouble in many of these areas results from having poor models of disease to work with today. 

Creation of a 3D bioprinted liver model from diseased liver cells.

To date, Viscient has focused on a custom 3D liver tissue model of disease. Liver is a classic challenge area for pharmaceutical discovery and development. Rat models are known to fail to predict human biology in the liver, and there have been many failed clinical trials due to poor predictive models. 





Given the specific value that human 3D tissue culture brings in liver, coupled with published liver fibrosis model data, Viscient’s first efforts focus on discovery and development work in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), “fatty liver disease.” NASH currently affects up to 12% of the U.S. population and is considered a $40B annual revenue future market (Wall St. Journal). Utilizing newly available three-dimensional biology technologies, we explore biology in a previously unavailable context, leading to a better understanding of disease and an improved opportunity to impact patients.

Due to the current activity in the liver / NASH space, Viscient foresees excellent opportunities. The first drugs in this space will be approved along a 2-3 year timeline, creating strong opportunities for deal making with pharma or exit by sale to big pharma for well positioned companies with promising drugs in development. Companies with NASH clinical assets are already publicly trading for up to $2B+ market cap despite offering “old school” solutions that are expected to offer limited benefit in patients.


NASH represents an extremely attractive opportunity due to the failures of traditional discovery methods. Standard rat models for this disease have resulted in dozens of clinical trial failures, including two major late stage failures in 2019: a Phase 3 failure (Gilead), and a Phase 2b failure (Conatus). The solutions that will break through first are likely to demonstrate benefit for a limited number of patients (~20-25% of patients meeting clinical endpoint), leaving strong unmet need. Viscient 3D models incorporate diseased human cells from patients, allowing us to see the true disease biology. Our experiments allow direct manipulation of the diseased cells to develop drugs that translate to real benefit for patients..

Viscient has built a drug discovery paradigm that can be used for all tissue types. Because of this, the possibilities to grow this work using Organovo’s bioprinting platform and specific tissue assets has significant potential. Having established multiple models in liver, Viscient would put Organovo’s intestine, kidney, and other assets to powerful use by insertion into our drug discovery paradigm using 3D.

Typical drug discovery in animal models

Viscient performs the same steps as in traditional drug discovery, but with a 3D tissue model of disease made of living human cells in the place of an animal model of efficacy.

Drug discovery using 3D bioprinted tissue
The core of Viscient’s proposal is to use Organovo’s kidney, intestine, and other tissues in the same process as shown above, creating exciting opportunities to find new drugs and move them forward.


Any statements contained on this website that do not describe historical facts constitute forward-looking statements as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  Any forward-looking statements contained on this website are based on current expectations, but are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties.  Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the combination of Viscient and Organovo, potential benefits of the combination, and the prospective performance and outlook of the combined company’s business. Viscient does not intend to update any of the forward-looking statements to conform these statements to reflect actual results, later events or circumstances or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

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