BIOLIFE4D has started a $50 million Reg A+ offering that will fund its work to create a replacement for the human heart through a 3-D printing process. Down the road, the company sees the potential for replicating other human organs.
"Once our process for 3D bioprinting a heart is optimized, we can leverage the technology and look to apply it to other vital organs," company president, founding partner and CEO Steven Morris told The Deal.
Morris told The Deal that printing a new heart involves changing existing DNA.
"The 3D bioprinting process is just a type of reprogramming," Morris said.
Since cells have DNA, they are the blueprint for everything we are made of. In their stem-cell state, they have the ability to essentially change into whatever the body needs. But because there aren't enough adult stem cells for us to use, we take already specialized cells-in our case, blood cells-and communicate with the genes in those cells, asking them to go from their current state back to a stem cell state. Once we have completed that phase, we communicate with them again, asking to go to the specialized cells we need - heart cells.
Heart disease is a massive cause of mortality that affects millions of people every year.
For a variety of reasons, it's only possible to arrange about 5,000 heart transplants each year. Many people are excluded from the selection process because they are too old or too sick to match selection criteria. Those individuals would still care to go on living.
BIOLIFE4D of Buffalo Grove, Ill., is hoping to perfect a process that would allow patients to replace an actual human heart with a 3-D version-and for less than the typical cost of a traditional heart transplant, which runs about $500,000.
Hearts available for transplant are in short supply, and receivers of donated hearts often find that their bodies reject the new organs. It's not always possible to predict organ rejection, and the consequences of that phenomenon can be both costly and lethal.
The 3D bioprinting is the process of creating cell patterns in a confined space using 3D printing technologies, thereby preserving cell functionality and viability within the printed construct, according to the company.
"With BIOLIFE4D, a patient-specific, fully functioning heart will be created through 3D bioprinting and the patient's own cells, eliminating the challenges of organ rejection and long donor waiting lists that plague existing organ transplant methods."
Morris told The Deal that a new heart would not just extend patient's lifespan -- it would allow them to maintain a higher quality of life that they would be able to have with typical therapies, which can be unpleasant and debilitating.
Some 3-D printing enterprises have fallen play to novelty and the urge to use new technologies just for the sake of using them.
BIOLIFE4D could provide actual life-saving technologies.
"The easiest way to think about it is like a row of switches," Morris said.
"When all the switches are in the neutral position, they are stem cells, capable of becoming other cells once they are told what is needed. If a blood cell is needed, certain switches go up and others go down, and the final combination is what makes it a heart cell. Another combination of up and down makes it a skin cell, and so on."
All of this is, of course, done naturally in the body," according to Morris.
"We are replicating this exact process of communicating with the cells, but we are doing it outside of the body."
In the U.S. alone, heart disease kills over 600,000 people for year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease accounts for about 25% of fatalities, requires massive amounts of funding and leaves many older patients with no opportunity for a heart transplant.
The company is using the general solicitation provisions of Regulation A+ to source capital from a wide variety of investors.
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