Founder Stories

TARA Biosystems

TARA Biosystems was founded when Misti Ushio, from the VC firm Harris and Harris (previously with Columbia Technology Ventures), began a conversation in 2013 about starting a company around the in vitro applications of tissue engineering, 3D biology, and predictive physiology. During this time, Columbia Prof. Gordana Vunjak­-Novakovic and her former student Milica Radisic (now a professor at the University of Toronto) had already been thinking about commercialization of a cardiac platform that other post docs in Gordana’s lab had developed with great success.

In the world of pharmaceutical testing, determining if a drug is bad for the heart is surprisingly expensive. Nearly 90 percent of drugs tested cardiotoxicity —how damaging they are for the human heart— actually fail. And a failed drug means a high cost for companies. TARA Biosystems ultimately developed to address this issue applying the cardiac platform Gordana’s lab had produced.

TARA Biosystems was founded by a rather large team of biomedical engineering post docs: Milica Radisic, Ph.D Professor, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto; Kacey Ronaldson, Ph.D ’11SEAS, ’15GSAS; Boyang Zhao and Yimu Zhao both now Ph.D students at the University of Toronto.

Of the five co­-founders, four are women and three are under 30 (Kacey, Yimu, Boyang). Along with the help of Columbia University’s Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering Gordana Vunjak­-Novakovic, Co­-Director of the Craniofacial Regeneration Center, the team is also supported by the NIH, FDA, and NCATS as they realize the potential that tissue-­chips will have on the drug discovery and development processes. To learn more, sign up for updates on their website.

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