Unconventionals Podcast | Season 5 Episode 3

Breakthroughs Are Just the Beginning: How a 3D Bioprinting Pioneer Creates a Market

Organovo’s printers create human tissue that mimic the form and function of native tissue in the body — but live outside the body. This is a big deal. A feat of science and engineering that’s truly disruptive, sci-fi kind of stuff.

But the innovation alone doesn’t guarantee success. Once you’ve created something truly novel, how do you bring it to market?As any technology or life sciences CMO will appreciate, marketing an innovation that outstrips what people know how to applyin their lives is hard work. In this episode of The Uncoventionals, we talk with Organovo CEO Keith Murphy about bioprinting and its big implications for human health. We’ll also discuss how they tell their story, find early application markets, and convince pharma customers to try the platform. Turns out that WHO you talk to first is critical. The key is connecting with buyers that are, as Keith says, “alive to new possibilities.” Find out how Organovo is enlisting the change agents — or as we like to call them "the crazies” — to bring a breakthrough platform to life.

Video Highlights

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Speaker 1:

I'm Mike O’Toole, The Unconventionals is a podcast series produced and distributed by PJA advertising. Along with our academic partners at Columbia Business School, we're proud to bring you The Unconventionals. The companies we feature aren't clients. There’s no financial relationship, no promotional agenda, just the stories of companies and entrepreneurs that remind us that the biggest risk in marketing is being like everyone else.

Speaker 2:

Next on PJA radio’s The Unconventionals.

Speaker 3:

In 2004, the first lab really did something innovative which was taken an old HP inkjet printer and take ink out of the cartridge and put cells in the cartridge and they demonstrated that they could take those cells and basically spray them out of that inkjet and they would survive. Up until this technology existed, there was simply no way to take human cells and make a three-dimensional tissue that had architecture that mimicked the native tissue.

Michael:

Let's say you’re bringing something truly novel to your market. Since Clayton Christiansen introduced the term "disruptive innovation", pretty much every new business model out there calls itself one, but I’m not talking about a different way to get your lunch or dry cleaning delivered. I'm talking about a feet of science and engineering that is truly breakthrough, sci-fi kind of stuff. If you have something like this, how do you bring it to market? Which applications do you focus on to prove the technology? What problems do you try to solve? What kind of people do you bring together and who do you make the case to firs given that what you’re providing will feel new and unproven to most of the buyers out there? 3-D bio printing is this kind of innovation.

as Sharon Collins Presnell, Organovo's chief scientific officer says in that opening clip, this started, at least in the case of Organovo, with a low-tech hack of using ink cartridges from an HP printer and while the technology is advanced and morphed, when I toured Organovo's lab, the machines look pretty much like printers except the ink in this case is different cell types and the printer places the cells in layers and this enable cells to function together as living tissue outside the body and that is a very big deal.

We talked with Organovo's CEO, Keith Murphy, in their San Diego offices. In the second half of our conversation, we’ll talk about how to market something as novel as bio printed tissues, but let’s start with the science itself. What exactly are we talking about? The thing that really struck me as the simple insight behind Organovo's breakthrough, cells are built to organize, grow, develop into tissues. That's their function. Organovo has figured out a way for cells to work their magic but outside the body.

Once you figure that out, you've made a lot of things possible, from better ways to test drugs, which is happening today, to developing replacement parts for the body, which is still largely futurist, but quite possible.

Keith:

One way to think about bio printing is like building something out of Legos, whereas when you’re building a design out of Legos, you're going to have a multilayer structure. You're going to have certain cells in certain positions inside of that and you're going to put a certain color block in each position. What we do is the same thing but at a smaller scale and instead of using different colored plastics for our blocks, we're using different cell types so you can re-create the architecture of a tissue and put a certain cell type in a certain position and then in the end, the whole thing binds together and creates a living tissue.

Michael:

The different cell types are critical because the tissue is made out of different cell types.

Keith:

That’s right. To get the best biological function afterwards, you need to have different cell types present and they interact much as they do in the body and that’s what allows us to re-create the biological function of a tissue.

Michael:

I love Keith's Lego analogy because it captures the notion of different cell types and the three-dimensional structure, but of course it’s not as simple as that. There is some magic. By magic I mean a lot of complex science and engineering and biology that happens after the cells are printed. Some of this is Organovo and some of this is the cells themselves in the ingenious ways they organize given the right conditions.

Keith:

There's a lot of steps of the magic that happens afterwards. I think the first thing that happens is that the cells actually bind together, which is a critical step, so we're starting with either cells that aren't associated with one another at all, or that there are bound in small aggregates. Those cells are alive and the materials are slightly flowable so they actually fill the void spaces that are left over after printing and then bind together tightly and the molecules-

Michael:

Like surface, like water or surface tension a little bit or-

Keith:

They actually have protein molecules that come out of the cell membrane that attach and this sounds a little bit funny but if you've ever thought of why your skin sticks to vinyl or a leather seat, the same proteins are at work so your cells want to bind to each other and when they encounter the leather of a car seat or something like that, they want to bind to that too and that’s what starts to happen so it’s those same cell adhesion molecules we call them that actually start to bind together. That’s how all of our tissue actually binds together normally.

To give you a quick example, a liver cell taken out of the body and put on a dish, a Petri dish, is actually very unhappy and starts to fail immediately. It takes it a couple days, but it loses its function. A liver cell put into a bio printed tissue in our hands in Organovo's bio printed tissue actually continues to live and respond to its environment. It’s almost like how bubbles interact in three dimensions where they're touching each other at surfaces and they're happy that way. They continue to perform normally, produce all the enzymes that liver normally does and has a ongoing viability. We haven’t found the end stage to that. It just keeps living on.

Michael:

So the cells are that smart? They know how to do that in the right conditions?

Keith:

Philosophically, think about it. They have to be that smart. They’re doing it in our body and the historical problem that we're overcoming is that everyone thinks if you take them out of the body and put them on a dish you can achieve the same ends. For some cell types, that’s worked but for many it hasn’t, and for liver cells, the smooth muscle cells that are in a blood vessel that I mentioned earlier, for those cells they're not happy in that environment and you need to re-create their normal environment to get them to behave appropriately, but they have the programming to do it. It’s us that was failing them. They’re not failing, we just didn’t re-create their environment enough and bio printing gives us a tool to do that.

Michael:

Keith, when did you know this would work?

Keith:

Well, there were a couple of indications that it would work. When you kind of jump into a startup environment, you’re taking a big risk, so I certainly wanted to be confident. The professor, Gabor Forgacs, who founded the technology and cofounded the company, when he looked in the lab at building heart muscle with cardio myocytes heart muscle cells, he saw something really compelling, which is that without any external stimulation, a bio printed patch with a certain thickness to it would start to beat simultaneously. All the cells signaled one another and it started to beat.

That wasn’t something that had previously been achieved with a patch type of tissue. You can get cells to do that if you sort of line them up very carefully on the bottom of a dish, but when people tried to build up a tissue-engineered heart muscle patch on polymer, they wouldn’t respond appropriately. They would need electrical stimulation, so the fact that he saw that was really compelling. Then when we got into it and started to build tissues, one of the first things we did was to build blood vessels. What we saw in those is that the cells that started randomly ordered and the muscle cells in a blood vessel are not randomly ordered. They actually, they line up circumferentially so it’s almost like if you think about going around the outside of that circle. That’s how they line up, like little overlapping pieces of paper and that’s what the muscle does. When your heart beats and expands the blood vessel, those muscles re-contract and pull back down to keep the flow going.

What we saw is that those muscle cells aligned that way. They actually changed their shape, aligned together and we were giving these tissues a pulsatile flow. We were actually giving them a mechanical pulse and they responded to that so that’s the really powerful part. We we knew, "Wow, this is really working in that first tissue," and one of the coolest and most rewarding things about having taken that early risk and made a bet that that would continue to happen is that that’s happened in each tissue that we’ve gone into using 3-D bio printing.

Michael:

If you’re a layperson like me, you hear 3-D bio printing and you go right to organs. In fact, look at some of the Google images and you'll see whole ears or pictures of a whole heart or liver sitting at the bottom of a printer. Let's be clear, this is not what we're talking about. Certainly not anytime soon, but the idea of creating tissues that can be used to replace or support the original equipment in our body, that is critical to the mission of Organovo.

Keith:

We started with the basic premise that 3-D bio printing gets you something critical which is living human tissues outside the body. What do you do with that? That’s the business challenge to solve and so of course, jumping into this we did a lot of analysis and there’s a couple key unmet needs that we learned about very early on. The two that I'll highlight are, when you think about how surgeons operate today in certain areas, they actually, they want to work with a tissue that’s in the body and take that and apply it elsewhere in the body.

For example, bypass surgery is often done with leg veins or the available arteries in the chest that you change the direction and use as a bypass vessel. What surgeons lack is the ability to create a tissue on demand that they can use first for some other use, so if there's not, when they go to solve a medical problem, if there is not something in the body that’s available to take out because you wouldn't cause too much damage and the right size-

Michael:

Yeah, the right function.

Keith:

They can't do that work. The right function and the right size. For example, in the neck, if you have an artery problem in the neck, there’s nothing to replace those arteries, the carotid arteries with and so they have to rely on medical devices or other ways to solve that problem. They can’t do the same thing as a bypass because the leg veins aren't the same size as that.

Michael:

Plastic and metal and all the things they use are just not as good as the real stuff-

Keith:

In some cases, they are. If you're talking about the aorta, it’s big enough that plastic's okay. You go to the neck where you really can’t allow lot of risk because the brain is served by the carotid artery. The plastics don’t work as well and so they have challenges, but our concept was if we can provide tissue on demand, that’s really powerful. For many things that surgeons can’t do today, if you can provide them a tissue to order that would be incredibly powerful and allow them to do a lot more.

Michael:

So replacement parts in a way?

Keith:

That's right. That's one way to think about it.

Michael:

Where Organovo is doing most of its business today is using its tissues to support research. Take drug discovery, when you have a promising new compound a lot of money and time is spent figuring out if the drug will work and if it’s safe. Most of that research is done using human cells or animal models, mice in particular. These methods can work well, but cells aren't tissue and mice aren't humans. There are some big blind spots like toxicity, something that seems safe in a mouse proves otherwise in humans. Organovo's tissues can help research understand toxicity way earlier in the process and this is huge given the costs of more than $1 billion to bring a new drug to market, not to mention the impact on human lives.

Keith:

The second big area that we identified was the need for better models and for research, better models of disease, better models of human biology. If you think about everywhere we use animal models today, the opportunity was to stop relying so much on animal models and get a better replication of human biology that could be more useful in predicting how a drug is going to work in clinical trials.

Michael:

Let's take a specific example. Maybe you can talk about a drug that’s being developed and how using these sort of 3-D printed cells that live outside the body, why it might be a better way to test that drug.

Keith:

If you think about recent drug development case studies, a few years back, I think it was 2012, Eli Lilly was developing drugs for Alzheimer’s and they ran into multiple problems with multiple attempts in phase 2, where they saw liver toxicity they hadn't previously predicted. Where we can help is earlier in that development cycle, when you’re actually picking the drugs to move forward into phase 1, we can do a better job helping you understand what the right drug is and showing you whether or not something's going to have that kind of toxic effect.

Michael:

So making changes earlier in the process were failing fast?

Keith:

Yeah, that’s right, and I think people can understand it from the context of just understanding that animal models can’t be perfectly predictive. There’s a species difference and no matter how good that animal model is, it’s always going to give you a miss some of the time. It can never be perfect, so what you’ll see is these drugs that get on the market with liver toxicity, it can cause acute liver failure in many, many patients suddenly. Patients in the clinical study were going towards that end, but the clinical study was only so long and if their liver was being damaged, it wasn’t resulting in clinical symptoms early enough for us to see it.

You put a hundred thousand patients on drug after it launches and they're on the drug for slightly longer and you start to see the problems pile up. One of the classic failures called Trovafloxacin, we actually tested it in our system and we could’ve predicted the drug toxicity in seven days in our system. We’ve taken a number of these drugs now and seen repeatedly that we could’ve predicted these drugs and so in some cases, for example, we can take the drug and put, in the basic liver tissue that we make, put the drug at the known concentration it was originally used in clinical trials, which is a very low concentration, and see toxicity in seven days, clear as day.

Why can we see that? I'll give you quick example. It’s known that liver cells on the dish don’t express all the enzymes that are commonly found in liver and the body and those enzymes are what break drugs down. That's called metabolism. We break drugs down through the liver and so if you don’t have all the enzymes present in liver cells on a dish, you’re not going to see all the metabolites forming and sometimes it’s not the initial drug that's toxic, it’s the metabolite that forms, that secondary chemical compound.

In one of these cases, the one that was found or one of the ones that was found in seven days, we simply have a full set of enzymes produced in our liver tissue and we can see the secondary compound forming. We can look and find that and that’s what’s toxic so you see it very clearly in our platform.

Michael:

So you found it in seven days and in the real world, and you’re not naming names here, but how long did it take for that ... Did it take that drug to come to market before that toxicity was understood?

Keith:

Yes, the drug was on the market. It was causing problems in many, many patients and then had to be pulled back so you’re talking at that stage, this was a decade or more ago, so you're talking maybe $1 billion of total spending on that drug to get it to market. I believe there were $750 million in lawsuit settlements around that drug because of all the problems it caused.

Michael:

And a lot of sick people.

Keith:

And a lot of sick people, yeah. Then the missed opportunity to help the patients because that was a drug that was developed to help people and you missed the opportunity to actually help those people by not having picked a different molecule that could have been successful.

Michael:

Coming up, you have a technology that is different, undeniably cool, and is proven in some really valuable application areas. This unfortunately guarantees nothing. The key is finding the buys that, and I'm using Keith's phrase, are "Alive to new possibilities."

Speaker 2:

You're listening to The Unconventions, a podcast produced and distributed by PJA advertising. We're always on the hunt for great stories, not about share price or scale but about the element of surprise. To find how to apply the best practices and behaviors of companies like GE, Warby Parker, and [inaudible 00:16:42] to your business, visit our website AgencyPJA.com. Our academic sponsors is Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School which turns the research of academia’s foremost thinkers on branding and practical tools and insight for real-world application. To learn more, visit globalbrands.org.

Michael:

Early in my career, I was helping a startup market a new diabetes test. It was cool technology. It was some pretty simple monitoring equipment that would enable doctors to get earlier indications about diabetic neuropathy. I was a young and enthusiastic. I was doing some field research getting feedback on the technology. This one doctor, an endocrinologist, heard me out and brought me over the closet. He opened the door and it was filled with computer monitors, cords, and a bunch of random medical devices that had all been tried and discarded over the years, all of which I’d assume prided some advantage over current practice. I started out thinking this monitor was a no-brainer, but all of these products represented change and to an audience of experts, whether they're doctors or scientists, changing a practice or workflow is hard and fraught with risk.

Keith:

I think in marketing, an awareness of these is always a big problem. Actually I go back to an anecdote from when I was at Amgen. Amgen had developed drugs that were transformative in cancer care and I was on, I was an engineer at the time and I was on a business trip with another engineer whose mother had a disease that Amgen had a drug for. He and she both lived within miles of Amgen and the drug had been on the market for three years and her doctor wasn’t aware of the drug and wasn’t prescribing the drug for his mother, despite the fact that they were so close to Amgen headquarters.

That’s why marketing is so important. Sometimes, it gets a bad name but if people aren’t aware of the opportunity to benefit from something, you can't have the impact. Our market is like any other market. It has an adoption curve and you have to work through that, you have to educate the customer and that takes a long time. One thing-

Michael:

What are the obstacles? Is it that you just can’t get people paying attention because they're so busy and they're minds are so crowded with information? Is it that or is it they, "Yeah, we know about 3-D bio printing. That doesn’t work for our models"? Where is it?

Keith:

Let’s start with the customer that we're talking about. We're talking about a scientific customer within Pharma who’s going to choose to use our liver tissue to predict drug safety. Let's talk about that customer. They're a trained scientist and they’re very smart and know their space very well but that training can sometimes work in your disfavor too because just like in any market, you're going to have early adopters who get their head around new concepts faster and people who rely on their training more and wait for what I’ll call "pure referencing" to switch, so they're not going to switch until three or four people they know are using it and that gives you a market adoption curve.

The biggest normal hurdle is just level of data available and how quickly you can convince someone. We constantly invest in new, more and newer data to show and prove this so we had a big publication in July that actually showed the benefits of this over 2-D cells and that’s really critical, getting those peer-reviewed, published journal articles.

Michael:

Because that's the first obstacle, right? "Show me the data."

Keith:

Yeah.

Michael:

And if you don't have data that’s applicable, "Come back later, I suppose."

Keith:

There are particular problems that we run into too. One is that some of the scientists have been told stories about new models in the past. A decade ago, there were some newer models that were 3-D like but didn’t have the kind of data that we have and these folks feel like they were misled about the potential of those technologies, they invested in them, and they didn’t work as well as ours is working now. We have a higher hurdle with some of those customers and then I think another thing, I'll give an anecdote, we have new capabilities that these folks can't even get their heads around until they see it in action. The ability to have these tissues live for a number of weeks in the lab, when we did our initial market testing, we couldn’t even get good answers out of the potential customers because they couldn’t get their heads around that-

Michael:

Or disbelieved it.

Keith:

Or they didn't believe it, right. It's just not something, they’re used to having a two or three day study with liver cells on a dish, they don’t know how they would use a two-week or a one-month study. They know it’s useful but they haven’t thought it through yet and so those kind of problems really come up and it's just a normal learning process for both sides. We're working through all that and getting greater and greater adoption.

Michael:

All of what Keith is talking about will feel familiar to anyone who's marketing an innovation that outstrips what people know how to apply in their lives. Helping them to accept a new way is hard work. It’s about gathering data, finding early proof and prototypes, anticipating and overcoming particular points of fear, uncertainty and doubt, there's no magic but Organovo also realized something that many companies get wrong. They were targeting change agents.

Turns out who you talk to first, who you convince to get on board early, is critical. We call them the crazies, the people in the market that are looking for new and better ways that share your vision for where the market is heading. Back to my diabetes example, that crusty old endocrinologist, he was the wrong guy. He was never going to adopt something new.

Keith:

Yeah. I think there’s people who are maybe 20 to 30% of any market and in our case, that’s very much true, where they're more alive to new possibilities. They want to explore. They want to do the best work for their company and they’re trying to think through how they can use something new even before it’s well-proven. Those are the people that we thought we could get. When we launched, we found that to be true. As we’ve added more data over time, we find that we're penetrating with more and more people.

Michael:

How do you reach those 20 to 30% differently? You don’t have as much data. Is it making the mission, the broader mission, a little bit more front and center with them? Is it, what is it?

Keith:

I think part of the argument is just asking them to see the totality of the data set and kind of say, "I can get my head around where this is headed," before it’s completely proven. A lot of scientists say, "Looks good, but let me see more," but these early adopters kind of say, "Oh, I see where this is heading and I want to do a couple tests myself and then I can buy in."

Michael:

They can start to imagine if all these things are true, what might be possible.

Keith:

That’s right, what might be possible.

Michael:

The trick is how to find these people, the crazies, change agents, early adopters. It’s not about excluding anyone. Organovo's target is pretty focused and they can and do make their information available to every scientist who might find it relevant, but the more important effort is identifying those people who are willing to engage and go deeper from the very start. Organovo finds these people at events and has gotten good at sniffing them out in clients and partners. One common trait is that for change agents, adopting and proving new technology is an important driver of their professional success.

Keith:

One of the things we’ve done is we don’t, we do to some degree try and identify who those are, but we cast a broad net in our marketing and in our efforts to find people because everybody needs to know about it before they’ll adopt and so it’s just that you can't always expect the first touch to result in a contract with everyone but what we've found is that across the spectrum of these scientists even well beyond the early adopters, we found no one saying, "No, I don’t want to use that."

We found people saying, "Oh, that’s really compelling and interesting, but I need to see more before I buy," so that’s really validating too that you’re on the right track and they’re just, you get a sense from them of what data they want to see, you work to build that, and then you get additional folks over time.

Michael:

I imagine those early adopters were critical in landing your current clients, your current pilots with Pharma companies.

Keith:

Yeah and especially the fact that many of them have now come out and start to show their use of our platform and so in March of this year, we had the first open reports from some of our customers where they went to the Society of toxicology annual meeting and showed their work. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Astellas both showed that they were working with it, reported positively on their results. They get a lot of inquiries from other Pharma scientists and that starts to drive interest.

Michael:

Do you ever see these people, in Bristol-Myers or any other early clients, do you see these early adopters, do they do some of the work for you within their companies? Because they're not making decisions by themselves to bring this in.

Keith:

That’s right. They do do some of the work not only within their companies, but broadly speaking. One thing that is nice about our customer base and these early adopters and these change agents is, you're right to call them change agents because they're change agents within their company, they're change agents across the industry. A lot of them, one of the compelling drivers is to be known as and seen as a leader in the science and so for them to come out and talk about this, they’re doing two things. Obviously, they're helping us, but that’s an important career step for them is to be seen as an early adopter of a new compelling technology and demonstrating its usefulness. To be frank, they can establish how this should be used across the industry. They're really on the forefront of doing that so they're trailblazers.

Michael:

Trailblazers, absolutely and I think that not only they're alive to possibilities which is a phrase that you use, which I really like, but they also want to make their mark, I think.

Keith:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly right. In a scientific context, that’s really compelling for them. They want to publish. They want to be out there because they want to be known. They want to make their mark.

Michael:

One of the behaviors of unconventional companies is they bring new perspectives and expertise to old problems. One way to think about this is the beginner’s mind. People who are new to a problem will consider many possibilities. To the expert, there’s only one path forward. Organovo brought together engineers and cell biologists in a way the market hadn’t done before. Keith talks about how some of the research methods for cell biologist haven't changed for 50 years.

It took physics and a range of engineering disciplines to think beyond the cell to the structure of the tissue and as we’ve said, this is the transformative insight of Organovo. Creating an environment where these experts can collaborate productively is critical to the company's success, but it isn't easy.

Keith:

One of the difficulties is that these, everyone is still focused on what they were trained in as a discipline and so we're kind of crossing over these disciplines to have folks work together but sometimes your [blindered 00:27:13] still by your particular field. I think we’ve done a good job though of developing a system where really what we’ve got is a tool. It’s a platform that gives scientists a tool to do new things in biology and you can bring in an expert in a given tissue type and it has to be someone who has a really good understanding of spatial concepts and is not so tied just to the molecular biology and the chemistry, the biochemistry. They have to be able to think in a multidimensional way but once they can do that, they can partner with the systems biology folks, the platform engineers who run the bio printer and get to really compelling results.

Michael:

I think that's a good story because it feels like scientists and engineers, they're expert. They've spent a lot of time learning this and honing this. It’s hard not to be expert in a room, right?

Keith:

Oh, yeah. I think we tend to find people who work in a team effort to solve problems but science is a field where yeah, a lot of times expertise is valued and you want to be seen as the top person and an expert and you have to kind of sublimate that to the larger team goal. That’s definitely something that we’ve had to hire to, to make sure that we can get to the team goals.

Michael:

So there's certain people who are willing not to be the smartest guy in the room?

Keith:

Just, I think people all have to pull together and recognize that they all come out a lot smarter and reach their goals. If they were left to their own individual devices, they may not get there.

Michael:

We often talk about the need for companies, particularly innovation-driven B2B companies to connect to a larger movement not just pursue a technology or market. It’s the larger mission. The bigger set of problems you’re trying to solve that have the power to capture imaginations of buyers and investors, employees, the general public even. Organovo's mission and larger purpose is right there. In fact, their challenge is almost the opposite. The popular imagination goes right to printing hearts and lungs. Organovo's job is to not overpromise, to reel in imaginations, to make sure every application is backed up by data and proven.

Theranos and their spectacular rise and fall is perhaps the most dramatic example of the risks of hyping expectations, but while Organovo has to temper expectations, there’s a balance there. Its job is also to communicate that what is possible today is still transformative and exciting.

Keith:

I'm actually really proud of the way we’ve dealt with that. It’s possible to easily over-hype what can be done in this space and you have to capture the imagination, you very rapidly get attention for some of the things that we're working on, and we just strive to balance it quickly with the reality. When we were talking earlier, I'm always careful to point out that we're not talking about full organs that we're moving forward. That’s a ways off. We're talking about organ patches and we’ve always taken that tack.

In fact, when we did our own analysis of our cultural values, credibility really rose to the top and is one of our key cultural values. It’s internal, it’s external but you don’t get anywhere by over-hyping and over-promising things because, well you might get somewhere in the short term, but it doesn’t benefit you in the long run. One of the things that we hear consistently from our Pharma partners and our other partners and customers is that's something they really value about us. When our scientists come into the room, when our executives come into the room, we're talking very credibly about what we can and what we can’t do very openly and we make that a partnership and they can trust in what we're saying.

Michael:

It occurs to me maybe part of it is you’re shaping the conversation because we don’t know how to think about it, and so we go to what we can imagine, which is seeing a beating heart at the end of that printer.

Keith:

Yeah.

Michael:

But it doesn’t have to be that. It doesn’t have to be a fully printed liver or kidney. A liver or kidney patch is amazing and would be transformative to human health, right?

Keith:

That’s absolutely right. As business people, that’s our challenge. We have to find the thing that works. It’s like, when you’re creating a product for the first time, you have to know when it’s good enough to launch. You can't keep striving for perfection. You need to find what you can get to in a reasonable time frame, get it out there, and then you get the double benefit. You get the benefit that you're bringing to patients and then the benefit to the revenues that start to come in as well.

Michael:

If this doesn’t, if this doesn’t take off, and I’m not talking just to Orgonovo, but 3-D bio printing, if it doesn’t really meet its promise, what will stop it do you think? Is it the science, scientific limitations? Is it the story?

Keith:

I think that if the longer-term vision of organs and tissues for transplant doesn’t play out the way we hope, it’ll just take longer to come up with the right tissue engineering methods and bio printing may need complementary methods to move things forward. It may not move as fast as we’d like. I’d be surprised if we don’t have some broad impact. It’s just a matter of, I think about it as finding the right avenues. It’s not necessarily always the thing that you’re working on that ends up being the big success. You work in a number of areas and you find success with a platform technology.

Michael:

Thanks to Keith and the team at Organovo for their time and hospitality and thanks to Peggy at Little [inaudible 00:32:35] communications for making this all happen. Next time on The Unconventionals, we'll be talking to Mark Rosenthal who heads up Google's healthcare practice. Join us to find out how Google is driving innovation in the industry.

Speaker 2:

The Unconventionals is written and produced by Mike O’Toole with Reid Mangan. Production and technical direction by Reid Mangan. Promotion and distribution by Greg [inaudible 00:32:58] and Graham [Spector 00:32:59]. Additional media by Anthony Gentles and Ryan Doe with [inaudible 00:33:04]. Our Executive Director is Phil Johnson with PJA advertising and marketing. I'm [inaudible 00:33:10]. To listen to more episodes of The Unconventionals, visit AgencyPJA.com/TheUnconventionals.

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