Aspect Biosystems Strikes $2.6B Bioprinted Tissue Deal with Novo Nordisk


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Bioprinting collaborations are heating up in 2023. In one of the biggest moves of the bioprinting industry, Canadian startup Aspect Biosystems and Danish pharma giant Novo Nordisk (CPH: NOVO-B) struck a $2.6 billion agreement to develop bioprinted tissue therapeutics for diabetes and obesity. Through the partnership, the companies plan to create implantable bioprinted tissues to replace, repair, or supplement biological functions inside the body. These tissues will be designed to be allogeneic, meaning the cells used are derived from a single source to increase the viability of future large-scale manufacturing.

Under the terms of the deal, Aspect will receive an upfront payment of $75 million and up to $650 million per product for up to four products, resulting in a total deal value of over $2.6 billion plus tiered royalties on product sales.

Aiming to deliver a new class of disease-modifying treatments for diabetes and obesity, the partnership will leverage Aspect’s proprietary bioprinting platform and Novo Nordisk’s expertise and technology in stem cell differentiation and cell therapy development and manufacturing. The partnership will initially focus on developing bioprinted tissue therapeutics designed to maintain normal blood glucose levels without the need for immunosuppression, which could serve as a transformative treatment for the millions of people worldwide living with type 1 diabetes.

Aspect’s founder and CEO, Tamer Mohamed, said the deal would see the global leader and pioneer in the fight against diabetes and chronic diseases creating breakthrough therapeutics that could transform the lives of millions of people around the world.

“This partnership leverages Aspect’s full-stack tissue therapeutic platform, talented team and bold vision, and reinforces our strategy to create bioprinted tissue therapeutics through partnerships with global industry leaders while also advancing our internal therapeutic pipeline,” highlighted Mohamed.

As part of the deal, Novo Nordisk will receive an exclusive, worldwide license to use Aspect’s bioprinting technology to develop up to four products for treating diabetes and obesity.

Aspect has created a platform technology that may allow for the development of a novel class of cell-based medicine designed to be biologically functional, encapsulated to be immune-protective, and suitable for surgical implantation. As for Novo Nordisk, the brand’s expertise helps differentiate stem cells into a wide array of cells that may be used to replace damaged and lost cells which could lead to a specific disease, such as insulin-producing beta cells in type 1 diabetes, as well as manufacturing capabilities to produce the cells at scale. By combining the strongholds of each company, the goal of the collaboration is to develop implantable bioprinted tissues to replace, repair, or supplement biological functions.

Novo Nordisk has built strong capabilities in producing functional and highly pure therapeutic replacement cells at the highest quality and scale, explains Novo Nordisk’s Jacob Sten Petersen, corporate vice president of Cell Therapy R&D.

He anticipates that “collaborating with Aspect Biosystems adds an important component to our strategy to develop comprehensive cell therapy products. We are excited to co-develop solutions for cell therapy delivery that could lead to life-changing treatments for those living with a serious chronic disease.”

Aspect Biosystems’ bioprinting platform. Image courtesy of Aspect Biosystems.

The deal brings together two companies that have been targeting diabetes for years. Aspect, which spun out from two renowned research groups in engineering and medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2013, has since focused its internal programs on metabolic diseases, particularly liver tissue, and creating therapeutic tissues for type 1 diabetes. Together with innovative pharma and biotech leaders, Aspect has been laser-focused on bringing cutting-edge cell therapies to the clinic and transforming lives. Previously, Aspect joined forces with the nonprofit JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to create a pipeline of cell-based tissue therapeutics that replace or repair damaged organ functions and could prove suitable for surgical implantation to treat diabetes.

Similarly, Novo Nordisk claims it’s committed to making a difference for patients living with diabetes. The company commercializes several products to help treat diabetes, including insulin medications, as well as devices such as insulin pens and pumps under various brand names such as Levemir, Tresiba, and Fiasp. With almost 50% market share by volume of the global insulin market, Novo Nordisk is the leading provider of diabetes-care products globally, where most of its revenue comes from.

With a strong reputation in the diabetes community for producing high-quality products that effectively manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes and heavy R&D investments to improve its offerings, Novo Nordisk seems like an ideal fit for Aspect.

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