Ocean TuniCell delivers high-quality marine nanocellulose biomaterials for biomedical applications. “In the big picture, our innovation aims to repair damaged or diseased organs and tissues to give people a longer, healthier life in the future,” says Christofer Troedsson, CEO of Ocean TuniCell.
Each day, 17 people in the US die waiting for organ transplants, and every nine minutes another person is added to the waiting list. Figures are similar in Europe and other developed countries.
“In organ donation, there is a supply and demand mismatch,” says Troedsson. “Donors and recipients may be incompatible or organs may not be healthy enough for recipients. As a result, many organs do not reach patients and are discarded,” he explains.
“The future solution to this problem is organ and tissue engineering. As this field advances, we may replace or revitalise damaged tissues, and eventually reconstruct entire organs,” he adds.
Ocean TuniCell produces medical-grade biomaterial scaffolding, called TUNICELL, for reconstruction of damaged organs. The biomaterial is produced from the tunicate Ciona intestinalis, an invertebrate marine filter-feeder.
“Tunicates are unique in that they are the only animal group that can synthesise cellulose. Tunicate cellulose is different from plant cellulose, with longer and thicker fibres, similar in dimension to the collagen scaffolding material in our own bodies, but with improved mechanical strength. As an ultrapure biomaterial, it is attractive for biomedical applications,” says Troedsson.
When reconstructing organs or tissues, the 3D structure needs to be shaped together with cells and signalling molecules. TUNICELL is the backbone that provides structural integrity. TUNICELL can be used for many biomedical applications from wound healing and cell therapy to rebuilding a heart in the future. Recent published research shows that TUNICELL can be used successfully in tissue engineered cartilage and soft tissue reconstruction.
“Our customers purchase TUNICELL for research and development, and are advancing towards preclinical and clinical trials. TUNICELL is not in the body yet; that will come in the future,” he points out.
Ocean TuniCell may be instrumental in improving the situation for transplant patients. “When tissues and organs are built using ultrapure biomaterial and the patient’s own cells, they are available on demand, and the risk of organ rejection decreases,” explains Troedsson.
For quality assurance, the company controls the entire production process. Tunicates are farmed at low trophic aquaculture facilities on the western coast of Norway. They are harvested, processed and refined to nanocellulose in clean room facilities before distribution to customers.
TUNICELL can be physically and chemically tuned to fit customer needs. Ocean TuniCell currently has 10 products on the market, with more in the pipeline. Importantly, medical grade TUNICELL can be produced at industrial scale, making translation to clinical applications possible.
Ocean TuniCell targets expanding, billion-dollar markets. Most relevant are the medical scaffold technology market, projected at USD 2.1 billion by 2028, and the hydrogel market, expected at USD 31.4 billion by 2027. Other markets include wound care, 3D bioprinting, cell culture, tissue engineering and bioelectronics.
Launched in 2018, Ocean TuniCell has an expanding customer base and collaborators in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Many customers are in clinics and medical research hospitals.
“It’s exciting to bring our research to market. We see enormous opportunities in biomedicine, and are pleased to contribute to their realisation,” concludes Troedsson.