New Cove @ UCI tenant, Novoheart, a global stem cell biotechnology company, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX Venture Exchange on September 15. Novoheart was co-founded by professors Michelle Khine, Ronald Li, and Kevin Costa, The company is expanding by opening a flagship office at the Cove @ UCI, their first US location, as it progresses toward its mission of transforming drug discovery and the development of heart therapeutics.
As a professor in the department of biomedical engineering, and director of both Faculty Innovation in UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and the BioENGINE program, Professor Khine, now on Novoheart’s advisory team, has developed inventions with Professor Li that were licensed by the company from the board of Regents of the University of California. The inventions were developed in the Khine Lab at the UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering, serving as a foundational technology for Novoheart. Additionally, Novoheart has engaged with Applied Innovation for an Industry Sponsored Research project.
Novoheart’s research on the human ventricular cardiac anisotropic sheet (hvCAS) as a powerful tool for detecting drug-induced arrhythmias was featured in a recent issue of Advanced Materials, a prestigious international, peer-reviewed bioengineering journal.
“The success of this revolutionary work was based on a decade long productive collaborative relationship between my laboratory and that of Professor Li for developing micro-fabrication technologies to strategically align human heart cells by design in a fashion that is most similar to that of the native human hearts,” Khine said.
Currently, development of a new drug candidate in the US costs $2 to 4 billion, can take over 10 years to develop, maintaining an extremely poor success rate with fewer than 1% of initial drug candidates reaching commercialization. The primary cause for drug withdrawal and attrition is heart toxicity. For the first time, hvCAS is able to predict and visualize torsadegenicity (i.e. the undesired side effect leading to lethal arrhythmias) of a range of drugs including flecainide, procainamide and cisapride that were previously withdrawn in clinical trials by paradoxically increasing the mortality rate through lethal arrhythmias among the 1,700 tested patients. This represents a revolutionary tool to assess pre-clinical drug-induced arrhythmogenicity without involving human individuals. Novoheart and the Khine lab are also working on other disruptive technologies such as advanced human heart surrogates and artificial intelligence for pre-screening and optimization of drug formulations, ultimately minimizing risks and maximizing safety and efficacy for patients.
“We are very excited to begin trading on the TSX Venture Exchange as we open the door for new investors to share in the exciting future our company holds,” said Ronald Li, CEO of Novoheart. “We are at a critical juncture as an organization in that we have a window of opportunity to capitalize on, both scientifically and commercially. Having the necessary capital to expand our facilities and actively pursue further commercial opportunities with pharmaceutical companies while maintaining our relationship with existing ones is key to our success. I am ecstatic about what the future holds for Novoheart and look forward to what’s in store.”