Hong Kong BioTech startup Medera Biopharmaceutical develops miniature hearts to replicate those of humans in an effort to cut time costs by replacing animal testing and delivering more accurate results.
The self-sustaining miniature organ pulsates to its own heartbeat, serving as a means to test a treatment’s toxicity or alter it to stimulate cardiac illnesses to calculate and scale the real-time efficacy of new drugs.
Hong Kong and US-based Medera aims to bring forward the invention for pharmaceutical companies to utilise as a sustainable testing instrument. Development of a new drug often costs a substantial amount of time and capital- around US$1 billion and 8- 10 years for development and testing. “Heart in a jar” biotechnology delivers a solution by shrinking drug development timelines and costs significantly, with as little as two years spent on drug trials and results by replacing tests conducted on animals, according to Medera Co-founder Ronald Li.
Li also mentioned how the ability to personalise the miniature organ could come as a useful tool in understanding and improving treatments taking human genetics into consideration, “Now you can think about having a Chinese, southern Chinese, northern Chinese, Jewish, Caucasian (heart). Additionally, not only [the heart of] healthy individuals, but also sick individuals who carry particular genetic mutations.”
The miniature heart is currently being marketed to drug companies in pursuit of possible treatments for heart-related conditions, and also holds the potential to positively shape the future of drug testing and possible treatments yielded at a swift rate.
Medera has not only created the world’s first and only self-sustaining human mini-heart technology, but also continues to innovate and expand its line with other mini-organs, such as livers, kidneys, and lungs. The American Heart Association and Hong Kong’s Innovation & Technology Commission were some of the many donors funding Medera’s BioTech development, having received over US$100 million in funding.
Kenneth Wong, the Vice-chairman of Medera, stated that they “will be starting strategic investment proceedings and have capital-raising plans underway with an eye to a possible Hong Kong listing,” in hopes to further advance their technology and drive innovation.