Early stage: The startup 3D printing human organs to save lives

Startup of the week:

Who they are: Prellis Biologics

What they do: Make 3D-printed human organs

Why it’s cool: Every day, 20 people die waiting for an organ transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The country is facing a massive organ shortage — there were more than 116,000 people on the national transplant waitlist as of last month, but in 2016 just 33,611 transplant surgeries were performed. That’s because it’s difficult to find usable organs. Patients have to wait for a willing donor who is a match (whether living or dead).

To solve the supply shortage, San Francisco-based startup Prellis is working on building human organs using a unique 3D-printing technology. If a patient needed a new liver, for example, doctors would take a biopsy from his or her existing liver, and the Prellis scientists would harvest those liver cells and cultivate them, allowing them to multiply until there were enough to create a new organ. Then the scientists would embed those cells into a collagen-based goo, and use a laser light to shape the mixture into a liver.

“We think we’re going to extend the lives of millions of people with this technology,” said Noelle Mullin, who co-founded the startup in 2016 with fellow scientist Melanie Matheu.

And unlike with traditional organ donation, there’s no danger of a patient rejecting one of Prellis’ organs, because the organ is made from the patient’s own cells. That means there’s no need for the patient to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of his or her life.

The process would be relatively speedy — the founders estimate it would take between two and four months to print an organ. They anticipate making a kidney for about $80,000, which is roughly the same price as a donor kidney.

Where they stand: Mullin and Matheu estimate they’ll be ready to print their first human organ in the next four to six years. In the meantime, they’re showcasing their technology by printing less complicated tissues. The scientists already have made working lymph nodes, which have successfully produced antibodies that Prellis can market to drug companies.

Next, the founders are going to try printing the cells that make insulin — called islet cells — which are found in the human pancreas. Those working cells can be implanted in a patient with diabetes, eliminating the need for insulin shots and daily blood sugar tests. Prellis hopes to start clinical trials with its islet cells by 2021.

The company recently secured $1.8 million in seed funding, led by True Ventures.

To learn more, visit www.prellisbio.com

—What will they think of next?

It’s a common scenario: You’re enjoying a day out and about in San Francisco, and you run into a problem — the city has very few public bathrooms. Even places like Starbucks won’t always let you use their facilities. Good2Go, an app that launched recently in San Francisco, hopes to offer the solution by helping users find clean restrooms in nearby businesses. Once users enter a business that’s registered with the app, they join the virtual line for the bathroom, and the app notifies them when it’s their turn. The app even unlocks the bathroom door as they approach.

Users can download Good2Go free for a limited time. The app gives them access to restrooms in San Francisco at several Peet’s Coffee locations, Sextant Coffee Roasters and The Creamery. Additional locations soon will be available at Rigolo Cafe, Church Street Cafe, Cafe La Boheme, Fifty-Fifty Cafe and more.

To learn more or download the app, visit www.good2go.global

—Run the numbers:

More than half of young adults eschew traditional TV and instead watch most of their favorite shows online, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. About 61 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 29 primarily use online streaming to watch TV, compared with 31 percent who use a cable or satellite subscription. But older Americans are less likely to turn to online streaming. Just 10 percent of adults ages 50 to 64 primarily watch TV online, as do 5 percent of adults 65 and older. The study highlights how the internet is changing the way we access entertainment, news and other information, and the growing threat online streaming poses for traditional cable and satellite providers.