REVIVO BioSystems: delivering ‘4D’ human skin models for animal-free lab testing | SGInnovate

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REVIVO BioSystems: delivering ‘4D’ human skin models for animal-free lab testing

Thursday, October 20, 2022

How a biotech company is helping to streamline the path to market for new cosmetic and pharmaceutical products

 


 

Ensuring that new cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are safe and effective is necessary, yet expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. In many cases, it also involves testing products on animals – a practice which is both a critical part of the process of bringing products to the market and highly controversial.

With animal welfare groups already achieving bans on cosmetic testing on animals in jurisdictions including Australia, the European Union, India, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan, organisations around the globe are developing viable alternatives to the contentious practice.

In Singapore, this includes biotech startup REVIVO BioSystems. Founded in 2019, the fledgling company has developed a way to create ‘4D’ models of human skin. This has the potential to eliminate the need for animal testing for cosmetics, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

“There are two main problems with animal testing,” says Dr Massimo Alberti, REVIVO BioSystems’ chief executive officer and co-founder. “Currently, 100 million animals are used in lab tests every year – and not just used, but killed as well.

“We also know that pharmaceutical testing has a 95% failure rate, which means that 95 of the 100 drugs that pass the animal studies fail in clinical trials. This means there is very little correlation between what works on animals and what works on humans.

“Our skin models provide a realistic, efficient alternative to animal testing that allows research organisations to innovate without animal cruelty.”

A technological alternative to animal testing

REVIVO BioSystems’ approach is to load human skin tissue onto a credit card–sized plastic chip that is supplied with nutrients, creating a micro-environment for the tissue samples. The company uses either real human skin collected from cosmetic surgery procedures or skin tissue grown in its lab from human cells. Meanwhile, tiny channels under the skin tissue mimic the skin’s natural blood flow, giving the model its fourth dimension.

 


REVIVO BioSystems’ 4D skin tissue model.

 

The result is a realistic human tissue model that can be used to determine how human skin cells will respond to different chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Clients provide REVIVO BioSystems with samples of the product they want to test, as well as their testing protocol. The company does the rest. According to Dr Alberti, the results are quicker, more reliable and more cost-effective than animal testing.

Rising to the challenge

REVIVO BioSystems’ story began in 2019 when a team of engineers and biologists working on the Skin-on-a-Chip research program for Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) recognised the commercial application of their research.

Licensing the patent from A*STAR, the team launched REVIVO BioSystems three months before COVID-19 hit.

 


Dr Massimo Alberti (top left) with his team.

“The pandemic seriously challenged our operations,” recalls Dr Alberti. “Our supply chain was disrupted. We couldn’t access our lab. And it happened exactly at the time we started serving clients.”

In spite of the difficult circumstances, the company started generating revenue almost immediately – something Dr Alberti says is rare for a Deep Tech startup working in biotechnology.

“We’ve had good support from the local ecosystem but we had to live off that revenue and our own funds for quite some time,” he says. “When you’re a startup in life sciences, you need a lab, you need hardware components, you need consumables, you need equipment. And that can be challenging when you don’t have capital.”

Almost three years on, the company is offering its testing services to a variety of clients. These include cosmetic manufacturers, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academic labs, research organisations, and ingredient manufacturers. REVIVO BioSystems has also secured funding from several investors, including SGInnovate and chemicals company Evonik Industries. This support is helping the company to further commercialise its platform and products.

Success for us is having satisfied customers that are excited about working with us and using our products,” he says. “And then, of course, there is the ethical aspect of what we’re trying to do. A world without animal testing will be difficult to achieve, but we believe it is possible if all stakeholders join forces and work together.

Working together for a more ethical future

Dr Alberti expects current macroeconomic and geopolitical conditions will exacerbate existing supply chain issues. Finding the highly specialised talent that REVIVO BioSystems needs also presents an ongoing problem. Despite these challenges, he is confident about the company’s future.

“The first version of our products are being used in our lab, which is a great achievement,” he says. “And now, thanks to SGInnovate and our other investors, we have the funds and support to drive innovation, expand our service capacity, and grow.”

This will allow the company to optimise its technology with the aim of launching its first line of automated equipment and consumables for testing by the end of the year.

“The plan is to gradually add complexity to the scheme model, develop new tissue models, and make our devices more user-friendly,” Dr Alberti explains.

REVIVO BioSystems’ long-term goal is to become the leading Asian and global provider of enabling technologies and services for testing chemicals, ingredients, cosmetic formulations, and therapeutics.

If the company realises its goals, the potential for growth is enormous. According to the Business Research Company, the global non-animal alternative testing market was valued at $1.11 billion in 2019. The market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.40% until 2025 and then 11.62% by 2035.

However, Dr Alberti and his co-founders say market share is just one way to measure success.

“Success for us is having satisfied customers that are excited about working with us and using our products,” he says. “And then, of course, there is the ethical aspect of what we’re trying to do. A world without animal testing will be difficult to achieve, but we believe it is possible if all stakeholders join forces and work together.”

“Success for us is having satisfied customers that are excited about working with us and using our products,” he says. “And then, of course, there is the ethical aspect of what we’re trying to do. A world without animal testing will be difficult to achieve, but we believe it is possible if all stakeholders join forces and work together.”

Discover more about the innovative startups that SGInnovate supports.


Topics: MedTech / HealthTech / BioTech
Industry: Health and BioMedical Sciences

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