Valo Health nabs TARA Biosystems and its beating heart-on-a-chip

To help boost its drug discovery and development work in cardiovascular disease, Valo Health is acquiring TARA Biosystems, makers of a 3D heart tissue modeling platform.

TARA’s “heart-on-a-chip” system creates a small, working simulacrum of the beating organ to help researchers predict the success of potential therapies or where cardiac toxicity may pose a danger.

The company previously worked with biopharmas including GlaxoSmithKline to test out new drugs as well as with artificial-intelligence-driven drug development companies such as VantAI, Insilico Medicine and Valo itself to examine how computer-designed molecules perform in vitro.

Now, Valo said it plans to incorporate TARA’s heart tissue chips into an end-to-end drug development offering aimed at cardiovascular disease, driven by its Opal data platform. 

The system will work to identify potential drug targets, design applicable molecules and complete preclinical testing to ready the investigational therapy for in-human trials. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 


By measuring how strongly the tissues contract when dosed with different drugs, TARA can get a sense of how potential therapies may affect a healthy human heart’s ability to pump blood. (Video courtesy of TARA Biosystems)


"There is a significant unmet need in identifying treatments for cardiovascular disease,” said Leslie Leinwand, a scientific adviser at TARA and former co-founder of MyoKardia, whose cardiomyopathy drug mavacamten was the centerpiece of a $13.1 billion buyout by Bristol Myers Squibb.

“I believe that the combination of TARA's in vitro human cardiac model capabilities and Valo's computational platform will advance the evolution of new cardiovascular disease medicines and provide hope to countless cardiomyopathy patients," Leinwand said.


Valo, formerly known as Integral Health, received a big financial boost last year to chase these goals. After raising $190 million in venture capital funding last January, the company topped up its series B round with another $110 million the following March.

By June 2021, it had announced plans to go public, via a planned SPAC deal backed by Khosla Ventures that would have added more than $500 million to Valo’s coffers—but that deal fell apart in November, with the companies blaming the “current market conditions.”

More recently, this past January, Valo announced a multi-year partnership with Charles River Laboratories to provide biopharma customers with AI-powered drug discovery services. The project would link Valo’s Opal platform with the CRO’s development capacity, with an offering this year made available exclusively through Charles River.