Prellis Biologics Hires New CEO, Raises $35M for 3D Bioprinted Lymph Node R&D

Prellis organic products has raised $35 million and named a new CEO as it seeks to advance the development of its proprietary 3D bioprinted lymph node.

Raised via a Series C funding round led by Celesta Capital and Partners of Greedand supported by Khosla Ventures, SOSV, real companies and Lucas Venture Groupthe money will be used to expand Prellis Biologics’ plans for its Externalized Human Immune System (EXIS), an immune system in a dish that replicates cell-to-cell responses.

Considered the first of its kind, the platform enables scientists to study B-cell class switching and somatic hypermutation, interactions deemed vital for antibody R&D. As such, the company says its EXIS can be turned into a powerful tool, not only for accelerating drug discovery, but also for accelerating immunogenicity assessment and tumor studies.

“Lymph Node Organoid (LNO) technology represents a significant breakthrough in access to human immunobiology,” says Prellis Biologics founder Dr. Melanie Matheu. “Previously, it was expected that immune cells would respond without the biological context of a functioning lymph node. With 3D-printed LNOs, we have the opportunity to accelerate drug discovery and development, while gaining data on human immune responses, all outside of the context of a clinical trial.

A high-resolution image of Prellis Biologics’ 3D bio-printed outsourced immune system. Image via Prellis Biologics.

Multi-photon holographic 3D printing

Since its founding in San Francisco six years ago, Prellis Biologics has focused primarily on the development of its multiphoton holographic technology. As with traditional vat polymerization, the process involves the use of lasers to harden the materials, although in this case these are seeded with live cells and layered in high-resolution tissue scaffolds.

Using the company’s technology, it would be possible to create biomimetic vascular structures up to 400 times faster than other laser printing methods, with features at the micron level. With this precision, the process also enables the realization of tissues capable of supplying oxygen and nutrients to dense cell clusters, in a way that makes them invaluable aids in disease modeling and regenerative medicine. .

Over the years, Prellis Biologics has taken many steps in its efforts to improve the effectiveness of its technology and test it in new applications. After setting out to 3D print kidney vessels in less than 12 hours in 2018, it later emerged that the company had begun 3D bioprinting inside live animal models and developed a platform to form of generative soft tissue design that saves experimental scientists time.

Prellis Biologics has also attempted to commercialize its technology by integrating it into CELLINK’s Holograph-X 3D bioprinter. When the $1.2 million machine was unveiled in late 2018, it was said to support growth ten times greater than standard spheroid cultures, lending it applications in cell transplantation and therapeutic screening, but the company has since gone in a different direction with the advent of its EXIS platform.

A microscopic structure printed in 3D to encapsulate cells.  Image via Prellis Biologics
A microscopic structure for encapsulating cells fabricated using Prellis Biologics’ multi-photon holographic 3D printing technology. Image via Prellis Biologics.

EXIS from Prellis Biologics secures $35 million backing

The EXIS platform, the latest product of Prellis Biologics’ holographic 3D printing approach, is essentially a working immune system in a petri dish. By challenging these lymph node organoids with a variety of target antigens, the company says it is possible to assess the human immunogenicity of potential candidates for therapeutic development.

While the technology has clear vaccine R&D potential, Prellis Biologics is also promoting it as a way to create complex tumors, which feature microenvironments that mimic reality. Measuring just 2mm in diameter, these models can be cultured in 3D to closely observe their behavior in vivo, making them ideal for transplants or longitudinal studies.

In order to further develop its platform, the company has now closed a $35 million funding round and conducted a senior management reshuffle. This leadership overhaul has seen Generate biomedicines’ CSO Michael Nohaile has been hired as CEO, with founder Dr. Melanie Matheu taking on the role of CTO, along with Avidity Partners’ Lei Meng and Nobel Laureate James Rothman joining its board.

Using capital raised from its funding round, which brings its total raised to $64.5 million, Prellis Biologics intends to build on its 3D bioprinted lymph node, a platform that Lei Meng, principal therapeutics analyst at one of the company’s investors, Avidity Partners, says could be transformational in the world of clinical therapeutics R&D.

“Prellis Bio’s differentiated LNOs have the potential to transform the landscape of antibody discovery and preclinical evaluation of biologics,” said Meng. “We are proud to support the company’s efforts in realizing the full potential of its compelling and versatile technology platform to develop therapies that address significant unmet medical needs.

Human vasculature model created using 3D Systems' Print to Perfusion process.  Image via United Therapeutics.
A model of the human vasculature developed through 3D Systems‘ Print to Perfusion program. Image via United Therapeutics.

Advancing therapeutic 3D bioprinting

The introduction of Prellis Biologics’ EXIS platform is one of many advances in 3D bioprinting announced in recent months, with the potential to help realize the technology’s personalized therapeutic promise. In February, Biotherapeutic Trestle has licensed a process that combines stem cell and biofabrication technologies to enable 3D bioprinting of functional kidney tissue.

Another company that continues to invest in technology R&D is 3D systems. After acquiring 3D bioprinting company Volumetric Biotechnologies to complete its Print to Perfusion program, the company is now working with United Therapeutics develop 3D-printed lung scaffolds that will be designed for human trials in less than five years.

In Finland, meanwhile, Brinter teamed up with University of Tampere to address what they perceive to be a shortage of 3D bioprinting materials. Announced in March 2022, the partners’ first breakthrough saw them come up with a new method for creating photo-cure bio-inks from gellan gum, which turns the precursor into a 3D-printable feedstock with promising rheological properties.

To stay up to date with the latest 3D printing news, don’t forget to subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry Bulletin or follow us on Twitter or like our page on Facebook.

For a deeper dive into additive manufacturing, you can now subscribe to our Youtube channel, with discussions, debriefs and photos of 3D printing in action.

Are you looking for a job in the additive manufacturing industry? Visit 3D printing works for a selection of roles in the industry.

Featured image shows the Prellis Biologics 3D bio-printed outsourced immune system. Image via Prellis Biologics.