As an engineer who also trained as a physician, Professor Sangeeta Bhatia of MIT has had a career long interest in developing an alternative to liver transplantation for patients in need. Dr. Bhatia’s goal has been to one day build an artificial implantable liver. Starting twenty years ago, her scientific journey has taken her on a path to make the main workhorse of the liver- the hepatocyte- survive and function in an implantable scaffolding material. Her “ah ha” moment arrived about ten years ago when she and her colleagues discovered a way to stabilize human liver cells even though they had been isolated from their neighborhood. She found that liver cells, when organized on a surface in specific geometrical configurations, surrounded by other cell types, result in “liver-like” longevity and functionality. The stabilization trick, called micropatterning, was highly amenable to miniaturization which is compatible with modern day, high-throughput drug screening techniques.
One of her colleagues, former graduate student and post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Salman Khetani continued work and refinement on the micropatterned co-culture platform. Near term applications started to emerge from the creation of a human liver model in a high-throughput formats such that it could predict interactions with drugs. Interest by the pharmaceutical industry along with a Nature Biotechnology publication about the platform suggested a spin-out from MIT was a logical next step.
In 2007, Drs. Bhatia and Khetani joined forces with biotech executive, Bonnie Fendrock to launch Hepregen Corporation. The vision to build a significant company that will make new life-saving medicines safer and more effective was shared by veteran venture capitalist, Mort Collins of Battelle Ventures. Since the Series A funding in 2008, Hepregen has been focused on working with its pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners to utilize and validate the micropattern co-culture platform, now called HepatoPac. Beyond the immediate applications in preclinical drug development to improve predictivity with regard to drug metabolism and toxicity, HepatoPac has wide potential as an enabling platform with transformative applications in drug discovery. At Hepregen, we imagine creating an in vitro liver disease model, using the platform with stem cells, or being able to develop technologies from HepatoPac which can predict which patients should avoid certain treatments due to their genetic susceptibility to hepatoxicity. The commercialization of novel bioengineered solutions to help the pharmaceutical industry develop economically viable, highly efficacious and safer drugs is well underway at Hepregen - a manifestation of a scientist’s dream turned into reality.
New Met ID Case Study Released
Ability of a Micropatterned Hepatocyte Co-culture System to Generate Major Human Drug MetabolitesRead More
HepatoPac-Kupffer Cell Inflammation Model
App. Note - A Micropatterned Hepatocyte-Kupffer Cell Co-culture System to Study Inflammation-Drug InteractionsRead More