Novoheart, AstraZeneca partner to develop HFpEF ‘heart-in-a-jar’

Novoheart, a Vancouver-based stem cell biotech company, is pairing with biopharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to develop the world’s first human-specific in vitro functional model of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

The companies announced their joint venture in late November, citing a lack of effective tools for preclinical testing as the driver behind their work. HFpEF is responsible for some half of heart failure cases globally, but its pathological mechanisms and wide-ranging etiology are poorly understood, so current models of the disease are limited in their applicability to human patients.

Novoheart and AstraZeneca will aim to establish a new, more accurate in vitro model of HFpEF using Novoheart’s proprietary 3D human ventricular cardiac organoid chamber (hvCOC) tech, also known as the “human heart-in-a-jar.” According to a statement from Novoheart, the hvCOC is the only human-engineered heart tissue on the market that enables a clinically informative assessment of human cardiac pump performance, including ejection fraction and developed pressure.

Unlike animal models of HFpEF, Novoheart said hvCOCs can be constructed with specific cellular and matrix compositions and patient-specific human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

“There are significant unmet treatment needs in patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction,” Regina Fritsche Danielson, a senior vice president at AstraZeneca, said in a statement. “By combining Novoheart’s proprietary hvCOC model with our expertise in heart failure, we aim to create the first in vitro model reproducing phenotypical characteristics of HFpEF. This could bridge the gap between in vivo animal models and clinical trials to help accelerate the drug discovery process by providing human-specific preclinical data.”

Novoheart will reportedly exclusively own the intellectual property rights to the new hvCOC model once it’s developed.

“We look forward to co-developing this new HFpEF hvCOC model into a powerful new tool in the worldwide battle against heart failure,” Novoheart CSO Kevin Costa said.