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Snapshot: Organovo (OTC: ONVO)

Name: Keith Murphy
Title: CEO
Company: Organovo
Location: San Diego, CA
Social Media: @organovo
Year Founded: 2007
Number of Employees: 28
Description: Organovo is focused on delivering breakthrough three-dimensional biology capabilities to create tissue on demand for research and surgical applications. As the first company with a three-dimensional tissue technology that works across tissue types, we are meeting the promise of regenerative medicine to fill unmet medical needs.
Products or Pipeline, Phase: Early development tissue therapies; commercial drug discovery technologies

What do you think would help strengthen the capital markets for the life science industry?

More positive steps to spur innovation by promoting the financial advancement of life science companies are necessary.   Legislation such as the JOBS Act have created opportunities for flexibility in seeking financing for companies without compromising investor protection, and more steps like this are urgently needed.

What are the benefits in doing a reverse merger? What are the challenges?

The benefits of a reverse merger include the speediness and lower cost than an IPO.  However, a company has a long road ahead after a reverse merger to operate on the same playing field as an IPO company due to less exposure to Wall Street during the deal and the bad behavior of some foreign reverse merger companies.  SEC could help this process by identifying companies by more factors than “reverse merger company” to identify risky companies that cause problems, since so many healthcare companies using reverse mergers are compliant, forthright organizations.

What are the benefits/outcomes of NIH funding?

NIH funding provides critically needed seed funds to develop technologies that are used to start companies.  Organovo was founded by outlicensing two patents that resulted from US federal grants to academia, and without the critical grant funding, our technology may not have come to exist.

What did you do with the NIH funding?

NIH funding directly to Organovo in 2012 has allowed us to speed development of a 3D liver toxicology product that has the potential to detect drug toxicity early in the drug development process to reduce costly late-stage clinical failures due to serious adverse drug events.

Why is being in California important to your company?

California has a base of outstanding scientists and experts in the life sciences, and has become home to two of the top three life science clusters in the country.  We founded our company in San Diego, coming from outside the region, because we knew we could readily attract research talent and associated management skills, such as Regulatory expertise.

Do you think the life science economy is shifting?  Where is it going (global, industry shifts)?

The life science economy has been global for some time.  California can retain a lead in this critical area, but only by becoming more assertive in attracting and keeping its companies.  Boston has taken huge leaps forward and is growing at a faster rate as a life science sector due to aggressive courting of companies with manufacturing and tax incentives, as well as active programs to attract major research centers from large global life science companies.

What are some new (business, funding, research) models you are seeing that are innovative? 

The use of innovative technologies from regenerative medicine to improve drug discovery efforts is increasing.  Pharma has begun to recognize the power of stem cell and 3D technologies for use in their research efforts.  This trend has led to a larger number of companies pursuing this path, and in 2012 the number of federal grant programs supporting such initiatives surged.

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