Aussie rules: 'Game-changing' 3D cell culture developer looks to expand US footprint, raises $25m

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

(L-R) Dr Cameron Ferris, chief operating officer; Bob Groneman, chief product officer; Dr Aidan O’Mahony, chief technology officer and Dr Julio Ribeiro, chief executive officer, Inventia © Inventia Life Science
(L-R) Dr Cameron Ferris, chief operating officer; Bob Groneman, chief product officer; Dr Aidan O’Mahony, chief technology officer and Dr Julio Ribeiro, chief executive officer, Inventia © Inventia Life Science

Related tags Cell culture Drug discovery

Australia company, Inventia Life Science, which is focused on advanced 3D cell cultures for research and clinical purposes, has just closed a US$25M Series B funding round, led by Blackbird Ventures.

This Series B round brings the firm’s total funding to date to US$32m. It also included significant re-investment from Skip Capital, confirmed the Sydney headquartered innovator.

The financing, said Inventia, will enable it to scale up and market its RASTRUM 3D cell culture platform worldwide and grow its team from 36 to 150 employees by the end of 2024. In particular, it is looking to develop a strong presence in the US.

Niki Scevak, partner at Blackbird Ventures, said Inventia’s 3D cell culture technology has the potential to improve cancer and other cellular research in a fundamental way.

US footprint expansion 

When asked how Inventia will go about growing its presence in the US, CEO, Dr Julio Ribeiro, told us:

“We have a strong customer pipeline of pending orders in the US (as well as in Europe and APAC). We have recently appointed Dr Dwayne Dexter as our US director of sales to lead the expansion of our US footprint and presence. As a veteran in the life science industry, he will be instrumental in building our support and go-to-market team in the US and growing our partnerships with pharmaceutical and academic customers.”

In terms of how the company’s RASTRUM 3D cell culture platform differs from competitor models, he noted how multiple other companies have developed great bioprinting products that enable tissue engineers to design and create their own biological tissues and organs. 

Unlike traditional 3D bioprinters and competitor models, though, RASTRUM uses proprietary technology in drop-on-demand bioprinting, enabling consistent and reproducible production of 3D cell cultures at scale. At the core of the drop-on-demand technology is the ability to print tiny droplets of cells and matrix components in a way that is very precise and gentle on the cells. This enables any biologist to print 3D cell cultures with unprecedented speed and reproducibility, replacing a time-consuming and manual process of traditional 3D cell culture generation. It is a real game changer,” ​said the CEO.

Speed and reproducibility

How can the platform enable new approaches to cancer research, and the development and validation of new drugs?

Since 3D cell cultures better represent human tissue, they also more accurately replicate biological processes and drug responses. The RASTRUM platform enables the creation of reproducible 3D cell cultures in formats that are compatible with standard drug discovery workflows and analysis methods, meaning the power of 3D cell cultures can be harnessed in a simple-to-embed platform.

“These 3D cell cultures recapitulate the in vivo characteristics of the native microenvironment in a tissue- and disease- specific manner. When used to print diseased or healthy cells, the platform enables rapid testing of new therapies on realistic models mimicking native cell behavior and response, without the use of animal models.

“RASTRUM prints tailored biomaterials that gel instantly to embed cells in a physiologically-relevant matrix environment with similar stiffness and biofunctional properties of human tumors. The speed and reproducibility of 3D cell culture generation that RASTRUM enables means that cancerresearchers, for example, can confidently conduct significantly more experiments in 3D — effectively accelerating their research and into identifying novel disease treatments,” ​reported Ribeiro.

Market penetration 

There has been great initial uptake of the platform in both the academic and industrial sectors, he said. 

“Within the academic market, it is currently being used by over 20 universities and world leading research institutes in Australia, the US and Europe.

“But we have also had strong interest from drug discovery companies and contract research organizations (CROs).

“We installed the first US platform in November 2020 at a leading CRO in San Diego and this year entered partnerships with two of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies to develop targeted complex disease models.”​ 

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