Next & Bio eyes drug tailoring with human organ-modeling organoids

2022.06.22 14:24:13 | 2022.06.22 14:25:04

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Seeing human anatomy outside the body will bring more means to advance medical research and tackle cancer and other debilitating illnesses, according to a, Korean biotech firm Next & Bio betting organoids that model endoderm-derived human organs.

An organoid is a simplified version of an organ produced in vitro in three dimensions and this can be used to model cancer behavior during disease progression and get insights for personalized medicine, explained CEO Lee Hyun-sook.

Lee who founded Next & Bio in 2018 is a life science professor at Seoul National University and basic molecular biologist who has studied the mechanisms of cancer pathogenesis.

Lee was studying genetically engineered mice to see how normal cells turn into cancer cells in her lab but felt the limit in actual anatomy of cancer progression. What came to her mind as a solution was organoids.

“As I conducted research using organoids, I saw the potential for many business opportunities. For example, we can make organoids of pancreatic cancer patients and conduct an efficacy test of cancer drugs to identify the best regimen for patients,” Lee explained.

Next & Bio is a platform company that uses organoids to help develop novel therapies and provide accurate diagnosis and personalized medicine services.

CEO Lee Hyun-sook이미지 확대

CEO Lee Hyun-sook

“Currently, we have secured the technology to manufacture about 90 percent of human organs with high-quality organoids. We will try to obtain samples from various tissues, including those from cancer patients through an organoid bank,” Lee said. “This will contribute to shortening the overall development period in drug repositioning and development.”

In the medical and scientific community, there is a view that organoids would replace animal tests in future drug development.

Drug candidates evaluated for toxicity and efficacy based on organoid trials will go through a fast-track program for regulatory authorization. However, a relevant system should be in place first to support this change.

“We are working on domestic guidelines in cooperation with the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, while participating in the establishment of OECD guidelines together with the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST)’s European Institute,” Lee said.

According to market data, the global organoid market is worth about 1 trillion won ($771 million) and is expected to grow to about 4 trillion won in 2027.

Kolmar Korea, a manufacturer of cosmetics, skin care and personal care products, became the largest shareholder of Next & Bio in December last year by acquiring a 40 percent stake.

“As a platform company, Next & Bio will continue to expand markets through collaboration with various pharmaceutical companies and hospitals as well as Kolmar Korea, contributing to the growth of the Korean healthcare market,” Lee added.

By Lee Sae-bom and Minu Kim

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