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Hong Kong biotech startup Medera bets on 'heart in a jar'

Company aims to cut drug development time and costs by replacing animal testing

HONG KONG -- Inside a glass jar, a piece of cardiac tissue no bigger than a thumbnail pulsates to its own beat. The tiny organ's creator, Medera Biopharmaceutical, hopes that this powerful tool can reshape how drugs are tested and dramatically speed up the time it takes to bring them to market.

Stem cell research has become increasingly common in the pursuit of pharmaceutical treatments for heart disorders and other diseases. But Hong Kong and U.S.-based Medera says it has gone a step further with a self-functioning miniature heart that produces more reliable results than testing new treatments on animals, at a lower cost.

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