Addressing the severe nationwide concern of cornea blindness, a Bengaluru-based startup is developing bio-engineered human cornea and 3D printed human tissues that can be significant contributors in the fields of regenerative therapy and drug development.
Founded in 2011, by the Indian Institute of Science Ph.D graduates Arun Chandru and Tuhin Bhowmick, Pandorum Technologies designs and manufactures 3D functional human tissues for medical research and therapeutics. “Our idea was to make a second skin, a material that can mimic the properties of skin for efficient healing of wounds. As the idea took shape, we finally landed up with a material that can be used as a platform technology for bio-ink with which we started manufacturing different kinds of tissues in a laboratory,” says Bhowmick.
Incubated at the Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre, Pandorum’s core focus areas include designing and manufacturing 3D human liver organoids as a platform for pre-clinical drug discovery and development at a reduced cost, time, and risk and developing bioengineered cornea for human implantation. “It is a continuous process of evolution to innovation. We first started with domain patents, generating domain technology, then we started to specialize in these two specific tissues,” adds Bhowmick.
Pandorum Co-founders: Dr. Tuhin Bhowmick & Arun Chandru
The company uses molecular ‘legos’ to build complex structures with cell assembly, micro-patterning, and 3D printing at its technological core. “The common denominator to our approach towards engineered tissue (liver and cornea) is bio-inspired design. We are inspired by the learnings from nature and try to understand how to build molecular ‘legos’ – building blocks for our lab-grown tissues. Cells, gels and modulator molecules are the components of our formulations,” he explains.
Pandorum’s technology enables cornea treatment without the need for specialized surgeons. “One cornea treats one person. With our approach, one cornea material would be able to treat 5-7 people. Hence, better utilization of human tissues expanding to a larger number of people,” says Bhowmick.
The company has no close competitors in the country. Pandorum’s list of awards includes the prestigious Top Innovator award 2017 at the ET Startup awards and the BioExcellence award by the Government of Karnataka in 2016.
Pandorum received the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) from Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and has recently raised Rs 23 crores in Series A funding from 021 Capital, IAN Fund, Sunil Munjal and others. It is also backed by Binny Bansal and the Kotak Investment Advisory Group.
The bioengineered cornea is currently in the trial phase. “Before it goes inside the human body, it has to go through a series of safety and efficacy studies. In the next 3-4 years, liquid cornea should come to reality, to the patients,” says Bhowmick. Pandorum’s ambitions don’t stop with the eye, the company aims to build complex human tissue or organs.
“We are continuously evolving, learning from the changes in the field itself over a decade. Emerging technologies such as Stem cell, gene editing, ‘smart- materials’ have given us better ability to control cell fate and function, to make building blocks of life” – Arun Chandru and Tuhin Bhowmick, Co-Founders, Pandorum Technologies.