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BRISBANE, Australia and SAN DIEGO, October 15, 2015 -- UniQuest, the main technology transfer and commercialisation company of The University of Queensland (UQ), has signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with Organovo Holdings, Inc. (NYSE MKT:ONVO), a three-dimensional biology company focused on delivering scientific and medical breakthroughs using its 3D bioprinting technology, to patent applications relating to methodology for producing kidney cells from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Professor Melissa Little and her team at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience developed a method of growing kidney tissue from iPSCs for potential use in drug screening, disease modelling and cell therapy. 

The research, published last week in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, has shown that this method forms an organ with all the cell types normally present in the human kidney.  Previously Professor Little and her team grew a “mini-kidney” in a dish that contained two cell types, but the team have now gone one step further to develop the method of growing more complete kidney tissue, using iPSCs.

“The mini-kidney we have been able to grow is very complex and more like the real organ,” Professor Little said.  “This is important for drug testing as we hope these mini-kidneys will respond to the drugs as a normal organ might.” 

Organovo will further develop the intellectual property with the support of Professor Little and her team for commercial applications such as kidney disease modelling, nephrotoxicity screening and discovery of compounds which may improve renal function for patients with genetic kidney disease. Separately, Organovo is developing a kidney proximal tubule tissue product using its bioprinting technology scheduled for release in 2016; products that would incorporate the newly developed technology licenced from UniQuest to provide a complete kidney tissue would be expected to be launched later.

Organovo’s Chief Technology Officer, Sharon Presnell, Ph.D. commented, "We are excited to license this groundbreaking technology to enable the development of human kidney tissues that could change the landscape of drug testing and kidney research. Working with leading scientists such as Professor Little extends our leadership position in the generation and commercialization of tissues that better recreate in vivo human biology.”

UniQuest CEO Dr. Dean Moss said, “This deal is anchored in world-leading induced pluripotent stem cell research by Professor Melissa Little and follows a research collaboration between The University of Queensland and Organovo, facilitated by UniQuest. We are delighted to work with Organovo so that they can further develop and commercialise the technology to accelerate the drug discovery process and enable treatments to be developed faster and at lower cost.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Organovo is granted worldwide development and commercialisation rights for in vitro applications. In addition to an upfront technology access fee, UniQuest is eligible to receive milestone and royalty payments. No specific terms of the deal were disclosed.