A new company has emerged that is targeting the goal of bioprinting kidney tissue (and eventually kidney organs) for implantation. Trestle Biotherapeutics, a private company based in San Diego, has entered into a license agreement with Harvard University. Under the agreement, Trestle will commercialize a suite of stem cell- and 3D biofabrication-based regenerative medicine technologies developed by Professor Jennifer Lewis Lab at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The core of the technology being licensed to Trestle was developed by a multi-disciplinary research team in the laboratories of Jennifer Lewis, Sc.D. and Ryuji Morizane, M.D., Ph.D. Lewis, whom we had the honor to meet in person when visiting Harvard in 2017, is a Wyss Core Faculty member, leads the Wyss Institute’s 3D Organ Engineering Initiative, is the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard SEAS, and is a Principal Faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. Dr. Morizane is a Principal Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, an Affiliated Faculty member at Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and a Visiting Scholar at the Wyss Institute. Drs. Lewis and Morizane are both members of Trestle’s scientific advisory board.
Trestle is developing functional kidney tissue to supplement and replace lost renal function in kidney failure patients. Trestle is building these novel tissue therapeutics through the integration of stem cell biology and 3D biofabrication technologies. As of 2021, there are more than 100,000 patients waiting for a kidney transplant and more than 550,000 patients who are dependent on dialysis for survival.
Organovo, also based in California, was one of the first companies to attempt the development of kidney tissue through bioprinting however the technology had proven too immature at the time. A lot has happened since and Jennifer Lewis’ Lab has conducted some of the most advanced research into bioprinted implantable tissues and vascularity. Among other successes, the Lewis Lab created a multi-material, bioprinting platform that enables the fabrication of 3D tissues composed of multiple cell types, engineered extracellular matrices, and vasculature. These vascularized tissues are currently under development for fundamental studies related to drug screening, disease modeling, and tissue repair and regeneration.
“Patients living with kidney failure have had the same two standard-of-care treatment options for more than 60 years. We are really excited to embark on the ambitious mission of changing that and building upon the work of the Lewis and Morizane labs towards making this a reality for those patients,” said Ben Shepherd, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Trestle.
The technology to be commercialized by Trestle not only enables the rapid fabrication of vascularized kidney tissue at scale for regenerative medicine solutions but also paves the way for increasing tissue maturation and vascular development within stem cell-derived organoids in response to fluid flow. These are essential components of building large, functional tissues which will one day be used to supplement, or even replace, renal function in kidney failure patients.
“Trestle was founded with the belief that recreating patterns and processes found in nature is key to building functional tissues. The next era of cell therapies and regenerative medicine, particularly for addressing diseases arising from complex organs such as the kidney, will rely on the integration of multiple advancing disciplines. Developmental biology, stem cell biology, and 3D biofabrication are core components of this approach. We look forward to integrating the innovative work from Drs. Lewis and Morizane into the platform we are building,” said Alice Chen, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CSO Trestle.