AMS Spring 2023

ZEISS Invests in Precise Bio’s Bioprinted Tissue for Corneal Implants

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Regenerative medicine startup Precise Bio and Carl Zeiss Meditec (ZEISS), a medical technology company, have begun a partnership for the purposes of developing and commercializing 3D bioprinted corneal tissue for use in cornea implants. The resulting implants would then be used in transplants to treat corneal diseases and vision correction. This new partnership builds on the two companies’ previous collaboration in 2020, when they worked together to develop lens implants for the corneal disease keratoconus, in which thinning tissues cause a person’s cornea to bulge into a cone shape, causing blurred vision and even sensitivity to light and glare. Precise Bio and ZEISS are continuing their work after achieving successful preclinical trials on their previous lens implants.

Precise Bio Co-Founder and CEO Aryeh Batt said, “We are very excited with this partnership that builds on our successful, ongoing collaboration with ZEISS for the development of corneal tissues, to address unmet needs in the field of ophthalmology.”

Image: Precise Bio

The two main parts that make up this new deal are an equity investment and a commercial agreement. Since it opened its doors, Precise Bio has raised more than $24 million through multiple investment rounds, with support from family offices from Canada, USA, Israel, and the EU, in addition to Aurum MKI and the Israel Innovation Authority. Now, while Precise Bio works to continue developing its two bioprinted corneal transplant products, ZEISS is leading the company’s Series B financing round, as well as funding some future milestones. Once these two products are ready, ZEISS will hold the exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize them.

“This investment in Precise Bio is expected to complement our leading portfolio of cataract and corneal refractive workflow solutions. The technology has the potential to advance treatment options for corneal disease, as well as for elective procedures, further enabling optimization of patient care,” explained Euan S. Thomson, PhD, President of Ophthalmic Devices and Head of the Digital Business Unit for ZEISS.

Ophthalmology is definitely an important 3D printing application, and as bioprinting technology continues to mature, so too will the applications. And Precise Bio definitely seems like it will be able to help progress the field. The company’s 4D biofabrication platform consists of biomaterials, engineering, and bioengineering, 3D printing, and cell technology, which are all used to fabricate complex organ tissues. Cells are printed in what the company refers to as a “spatially accurate single-cell resolution,” which are then used to create transplantable tissues and organs.

“This strategic agreement leverages ZEISS’s global leadership in ophthalmology and Precise Bio’s innovative and unique 4D bio-fabrication platform technology. We are confident that the synergy between the two companies will allow us to develop breakthrough solutions for recovering patients’ eyesight, bringing hope to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide,” Batt said.

In addition to the two bioprinted corneal transplant products it’s developing with the help of ZEISS and its investment, Precise Bio also created a retinal implant for age-related vision blurring. While there are numerous other applications for its bioprinting technology, the company is definitely zeroing in on the ophthalmology and its “multi-billion-dollar market of unmet needs.”

“Ophthalmology is our current focus. We chose to begin with ophthalmology for various reasons: the field in general adopts innovation [more readily] compared to other medical fields,” Batt explained. “Also, the clinical endpoints are clear. For example, the outcome of the cornea transplant is clear and immediate, and from the safety perspective, the clinical studies are straightforward and relatively safe.”

Precise Bio’s bio-fabricated cornea

(Source: The Jerusalem Post / Images: Precise Bio)

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