Prellis Biologics raises $8.7M following first animal transplant of 3D printed tissue

A Series A investment led by specialist technology capital firm Khosla Ventures, the round was joined by seed contributors True Ventures and Indie …

San Francisco biotechnology company Prellis Biologics has successfully raised $8.7 million to advance its holographic 3D bioprinting platform. A Series A investment led by specialist technology capital firm Khosla Ventures, the round was joined by seed contributors True Ventures and Indie Bio.

The successful fundraising follows a number of developments at the company including, most recently, pre-clinical experimentation of 3D bioprinted cells within a living animal model. Setting ambitious sights on the creation of full, transplantable organ models Dr. Alex Morgan, Principal at Khosla Ventures, says, “Prellis’ optical technology provides the scaffolding necessary to engineer these larger masses of tissues.”

“With our investment in Prellis we’re supporting an initiative that will ultimately produce a functioning lobe of the lung, or even a kidney, to be used in addressing an enormous unmet global need.”

The journey to viable, artificial vascular tissues

Prellis Biologics was founded in 2016 and is the developer of a laser-based bioprinting method known as holographic 3D printing. This method is capable of producing feature sizes smaller than 0.5 microns. High speeds are also targeted to prevent the deterioration of live cells within the material matrix. At a base level, the technology can cure a liquid to a solid within 5 milliseconds of light exposure.

Prellis’ current aims are to develop holographic 3D printing to a stage where it can quickly and precisely fabricate vascular tissue for organs. In one of the company’s most recent announcements Dr. Melanie Matheu, company co-founder and CEO, explained that the “ultimate goal” is to 3D print “the entire vascular system of a kidney in 12 hours or less.”

Prellis Biologics engineer studies 3D pritned tissue under a microscope. Photo via Bussiness Wire
Prellis Biologics engineer studies 3D pritned tissue under a microscope. Photo via Bussiness Wire

In a rudimentary step towards this ambitious aim, the company has so far launched its Vascular Tissue Blanks product. Vascular Tissue Blanks are essentially scaffolds used to culture live cells. Recently, vascular tissues made from these scaffolds were transplanted for the first time in a live animal model at Stanford University. Only 200,00 cells, compared to 2 million and more for typical tumor studies, showed capable of achieving full tumor engraftment and vascularization. “A breakthrough like this opens the door to studying rare human tumors and complex human tumor immune system reactions,” explains Dr. Matheu. “It has the potential to significantly reduce overall animal use and speed up drug discovery efforts.”

Khosla’s 3D printing portfolio

The capital investment fund of Indian American billionaire businessman Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures is interested in early stage companies in high tech sectors. As such, the company has contributed to the funding of several other 3D printing related companies. In late 2018, the company invested in the $140 million Series E financing round for U.S. private aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab. Prior to that, 3D printed composite specialist AREVO benefited from its backing in a $12.5 million financing round with two other parties. The fund has also invested in metal 3D printer developer Digital Alloys in the past.

“Khosla Ventures is the perfect investor to support our merging of deep tech and cutting-edge regenerative medicine,” comments Dr. Matheu.

“With this technology in hand, we can begin to ask questions about real 3D cell biology that have never been asked before.”

A microscopic 3D printed structure for encapsulating cells. Image via Prellis Biologics
A microscopic structure for encapsulating cells made via Prellis holographic 3D bioprinting. Image via Prellis Biologics

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Featured image shows a microscopic structure for encapsulating cells made via Prellis holographic 3D bioprinting. Image via Prellis Biologics

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Light Field Lab raises $28 million to rethink the 3D TV

Last year, the company raised $7 million from Khosla Ventures and Sherpa Capital. “Although Light Field Lab will initially target large format …

Although 3D TVs may have grabbed all the headlines a decade ago at CES, the tech never found a useful inroad into consumers’ homes. Not everyone has given up on them, though they look a bit different now.

Light Field Lab, a Bay Area startup that emerged from stealth two years ago, wants to build holographic screens that enable viewers to see “volumetric” 3D without wearing special glasses. You won’t only see depth in the images, you’ll be able to physically move around the display and see new perspectives of the action, giving you the sensation that the digital content is floating mid-air.

“Light field” technology has had a rough go finding its way to market. Lytro, which was developing light field capture cameras, was bought by Google for a pittance and Magic Leap was unable to fully crack the technology for its first augmented reality product even after raising billions.

Light Field Lab hopes that the tech advances they’ve made for light field displays will be enough to get consumers onboard eventually, though the company certainly has plenty of residual problems from the 3D TV era that need new solutions.

For now, Light Field Lab isn’t focused on at-home light field experience; rather, they want to build a modular platform that lets entertainment venues stack together tons of their devices to create huge 3D video walls that deliver a very unique 3D experience.

It’s a bold prospect, but the company now has millions of VC dollars to carry it out.

Light Field Lab announced today that it has scored a $28 million Series A from Bosch Venture Capital and Taiwania Capital, with further investment from Khosla Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Verizon Ventures and Comcast also investing, among others. Last year, the company raised $7 million from Khosla Ventures and Sherpa Capital.

“Although Light Field Lab will initially target large format location-based entertainment venues, a version of its holographic technologies will ultimately be developed for the consumer market,” a press release from the company reads.

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Human Engineering Tissue startup Prellis Biologics Secures $8.7 Million in Series A Financing

The financing round was led by Khosla Ventures with additional participation from existing investors, True Ventures and SOSV’s IndieBio accelerator.

hardware-3d-printing-biotech-prellis-funding

Human engineering tissue startup Prellis Biologics has raised $8.7 million in a Series A round as it revolutionizes the field of regenerative medicine.

The financing round was led by Khosla Ventures with additional participation from existing investors, True Ventures and SOSV’s IndieBio accelerator. To-date, the San Francisco-based company has raised $10.5 million in capital.

“Regenerative medicine has made enormous leaps in recent decades. However, to create complete organs, we need to build higher order structures like the vascular system,” said Dr. Alex Morgan, Principal at Khosla Ventures, in a statement. “Prellis’ optical technology provides the scaffolding necessary to engineer these larger masses of tissues. With our investment in Prellis, we’re supporting an initiative that will ultimately produce a functioning lobe of the lung, or even a kidney, to be used in addressing an enormous unmet global need.”

Using laser and holographic printing techniques, Prellis builds 3D hydrogel structures for R&D or transplantation, including a line of ready-to-use biocompatible scaffolds printed with 3D capillaries called Vascular Tissue Blanks.

These blanks, which grow at an exceptional rate with fewer cells, are now being used by scientists for research in oncology, tissue development research, neurobiology studies and drug testing.

“The holy grail of human tissue engineering is the ability to build complex tissues with working vascular systems,” Prellis co-founder and CEO Melanie Matheu said in a statement. “The future of regenerative medicine revolves around harnessing the power of our own cells as therapeutics and building the tissues to keep them alive.”

Prellis punctuated this announcement with a major engineering milestone. Prellis revealed that an animal transplantation study at Stanford involving human tumors built using Prellis’ vascular blanks yet results using only 200,000 cells when a typical tumor study in animals require two million or more cells.

“Spontaneous, structurally guided vascularization of our laser-printed structures is a significant milestone on the way to transplanting complex tissues,” added Matheu.

RelatedRead More About Hardware

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Khosla Ventures leads Series A funding in identity verification startup Veri5Digital

Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla said Veri5Digital had built artificial intelligence-based know-your-customer (KYC) solutions that would help …

Veri5Digital, a digital identity verification platform, has raised $2 million (about Rs 14.06 crore at current exchange rates) in its Series A funding round led by the California-based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures.

Bengaluru-based Veri5Digital said in a statement it will use the funding to scale its products for the Indian market and also build new services and digital market-related products.

Veri5Digital, which is incubated by Khosla Labs Pvt. Ltd, said it is also looking to launch its services in the United States and Asian markets.

Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla said Veri5Digital had built artificial intelligence-based know-your-customer (KYC) solutions that would help address the growing need for digital authentication by businesses.

“It is possible to not only deliver high assurance identity verification, but also maintain the privacy of every individual,” Khosla added.

Formerly known as Aadhaar Bridge, Veri5Digital offers products such as document signature service Veri5eSign, payment mandate service Veri5eNach, and KYC solution Veri5KYC Video.

The startup says it helps businesses acquire customers faster, and is compliant with regulations and customisable for each client’s needs, according to its website.

Khosla Ventures, which was founded by Indian-American billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, says it seeks to address problems with technology-based solutions. According to its website, it backs companies with technological approaches to a market, including entities seeking to enter new markets or disrupt existing ones.

Apart from Veri5Digital, companies in its portfolio include voice-controlled wearable communications device maker Theatro, satellite communications startup Akash Systems, fusion energy technology firm Commonwealth Fusion Systems and cybersecurity products and services company Cylance.

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Why billionaire investor Vinod Khosla is betting big on AI, 3D printing for the future

Last month, Khosla Ventures made headlines by investing in nuclear energy startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Opening up on the investment, …

Billionaire investor Vinod Khosla is betting on newer platforms like AI that give entrepreneurs the potential to bring in big disruption.

Vinod, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, has since then launched venture capital firm Khosla Ventures, which invests in experimental technologies such as robotics and biomedicine.

Vinod Khosla

Vinod Khosla, Founder and Partner of Khosla Ventures



At a fireside chat in Bengaluru, moderated by iSpirit Founder Sharad Sharma, and accompanied by Nandan Nilekani, the investor and bureaucrat who put India’s Aadhaar system into place, Vinod spoke about how technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing offer entrepreneurs huge opportunities and hold the potential to create large scale impact on the society.

Vinod said that over the last few years, there haven’t been newer platforms that allow entrepreneurs to start up and disrupt the landscape. AI, he feels, is a technology that brings in “opportunities to disrupt”. 

“My favourite sectors are medicine, AI, and 3D printing. Drug discovery using AI is interesting, but I’m sure no pharma company will do that. Startups will dominate drug discovery using AI as a technology, because you can put in incremental efforts,” he said.

On Friday, Khosla Ventures also made an investment in Bengaluru-based identity verification and user on-boarding company, Veri5Digital.

Innovating to create a difference

In the field of medicine, Vinod believes AI may well replace doctors such as radiologists. Speaking about the large Indian population, the number of doctors, and the limitations of humans, he said AI-led systems could take over in the next 10 years and be far more effective than human practitioners.

He said almost every sector could benefit from AI, adding that his dream was “an AI tutor, which teaches every child based on their learning patterns”.

Apart from AI, he said 3D printing was another area that offered multiple opportunities to entrepreneurs globally.

“It [3D printing] is a new platform, and one of my favourite startups is printing houses using the technology. The advantage is that it significantly reduces cost, takes 24 hours to build, and reduces the environment footprint significantly.” 

He urged entrepreneurs to look beyond software and service startups to innovate.

“Whether it is food, construction, transportation, education, and healthcare, they are all open to radical change in technology,” Vinod said.

The investor, who has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT Delhi, believes not having prior experience can be one of the biggest advantages for an entrepreneur.

Stating that founders who lack expertise in areas they are starting up in tend to be more innovative about problems they are solving in that particular segment, he said:

“The best innovation (in a sector) comes from people who don’t come from that area. No fintech startup has come from anybody who knew anything about fintech.”

On funding startups with ‘consequential’ impact

One of the pioneers in venture investing, Vinod has always been known for his differentiated approach towards investing.

I like situations where the chances of success are less but the impact is extremely consequential,” he said, giving the example of Google, which continues to have a consequential impact.

Last month, Khosla Ventures made headlines by investing in nuclear energy startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Opening up on the investment, he said “someone had to do it” because it “may create incremental change”.

“Not every investment we make is a smart investment; at first it did feel foolish to invest. But someone had to do it, even if fusion feels like something what non-government establishments can’t take … Because if they succeed the change is incremental,” he said.

The iconic investor, who has invested in startups like Square and Stripe, feels that “constraint is the best thing that can happen to innovation” and startups need to be hyper-efficient with their dollars.

“In my experience,the more money you raise, the less likely you are to succeed. When there’s little money, it forces you to think about the problem much harder. If you get a lot of money, you start executing without analysing the problem well. You have to be hyper-efficient with your dollars to be more creative with the problem,” Vinod told startup founders.

On ‘values’ keeping teams together

Vinod, named among the 400 richest people in the world by Forbes in 2014, has by now spent close to 40 years building companies and teams and breaking monopolies.

He joined Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers as a general partner in 1986 and played a crucial role in taking on Intel’s monopoly by building and growing semiconductor company Nexgen, which was eventually acquired by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in 1996.  

After that, Vinod helped incubate the idea and business plan for Juniper Networks to take on Cisco System’s dominance of the router market.

He said the value system has a big role to play in building a successful company. 

“If you don’t have values, people scatter the first time you have a problem. But if you have values, people stick together and make efforts as a team. It is also related to the kind of team you assemble when you have values versus when you don’t. Values play a big role when you hit a problem.”

But, finally what is the one thing that can attract a technology investor and magnate like Vinod Khosla to invest?

“There is never one solution and one formula. In the end, as a technology investor, you are looking for a unique solution that can create advantage over time. It’s really simple. And the biggest ingredient is the quality of team you assemble,” Vinod said.


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