In a Series B round led by Australia’s largest venture capital (VC) firm, Blackbird Ventures, Sydney-headquartered biotech startup Inventia raised $25 million (A$35 million). The company also landed in the US, where the newly appointed Director of US Sales, Dwayne Dexter, will launch Inventia’s flagship 3D cell culture platform, Rastrum, used to rapidly print human cells to help with cancer drug testing and therapy research.
Funding from Inventia’s new round will allow the company to market Rastrum worldwide, grow its team from 36 to 150 employees by the end of 2024, and strengthen its presence in the US, where the biomedical research and drug discovery markets are currently estimated to be worth more than $40 billion.
“This new round of financing is a very significant milestone for Inventia. The funds will enable us to scale up and take full advantage of the increasing global interest in such things as new approaches to cancer research and the development and validation of new drugs,” says Inventia’s Founder and CEO, Julio Ribeiro.
Niki Scevak, Partner at Blackbird Ventures, added that the VC firm’s financial support of Inventia reflects its belief that there is a broad-based and urgent need in the biomedical world for a unique 3D cell culture platform and that its impact is going to be “truly generational,” reshaping many biomedical industries––in particular pharma.
The biotech, which was built around digital bioprinting technology for fast, scalable, and reproducible printing of 3D cell constructs, expects the creation of its proprietary platform to remove the need for time-consuming manual labor of medical lab workers and enable pharma companies to develop and validate new drugs faster. In fact, it could help save millions of dollars by eliminating unsuccessful products prior to undergoing formal clinical trials, as well as assist biomedical researchers with cancer and other cellular research.
So far, Inventia’s innovative technology has allowed scientists to print 3D cell models at unprecedented speed, expanding the capacity for research and drug development in cell models. Designed as a stand-out-pink machine, Rastrum can produce 1,000 3D cell models in less than six hours, a task that would regularly take more than 50 hours using current manual techniques.
Launched in Australia in 2019, Rastrum enables the consistent and reproducible production of 3D cell cultures at a scale never achieved before. One of the many applications of this platform is printing diseased or healthy cells that can be used in the rapid testing of new drug treatments. This ensures researchers can conduct significantly more experiments, accelerating their research that includes understanding the cause of diseases and, most importantly, identifying novel disease treatments for diseases such as cancer or neurological disorders.
Commenting on Rastrum, Ribeiro said the biomedical applications for its use are very diverse. “For example, it can be of enormous benefit to the pharma industry by allowing new drugs to be tested in a 3D cellular environment and eliminated if necessary, long before they reach the stage of clinical trials. This can reduce the total cost of bringing a successful drug to market by hundreds of millions of dollars. Similarly, cancer researchers can now work at scale with cell models that mimic the human body almost exactly and produce research results that are more accurate and predictive than before.”
Currently, the Rastrum is being used by over 20 universities and world-leading research institutes in Australia, the US, and Europe. Even more so, Ribeiro stated in a social media post that Inventia has a strong customer pipeline of pending orders in the US, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, in both the academic and industry sector. At the same time, three of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies are Inventia customers.
The Series B funding round closing on 16 December 2021 brings Inventia’s total funding to $32 million (A$44.4 million). The round also included significant re-investment from Sydney investment management firm Skip Capital. Now that the company has made it through its Series B round, it plans to market its award-winning device in the US through Dexter, who previously served as the director of US operations at organ-on-a-chip provider Mimetas.
Additionally, in 2021, Inventia entered into strategic partnerships with two biotech firms, Sweden-based BioLamina and New York biomaterial manufacturer Xylyx Bio, to develop more realistic, scalable, and reproducible 3D cell cultures for drug discovery and biomedical research. Ultimately, the aim is to democratize access to affordable biomedical research, especially in cancer research and new drug development.
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