Founder Feature: Creating human tissue in the lab

Clex Bio Newslab OM Kinapel 2418

Published by Oslo Business Region, 03 April 2024

Armend Håti, a 35-year-old biophysicist from Kosovo, co-founded the startup ClexBio which is developing life-saving technology with an international team of just ten.

“This is where the magic happens.”

Armend Håti, co-founder and CEO of the biotech company ClexBio, arrives at his lab in Oslo where a team of scientists is conducting experiments at different stations. The mood may be relaxed and friendly, but Armend is firm when it comes to his company’s mission: “We’re a very technology-driven company, and our objective is to bioengineer human tissue in this lab.”

Armend is originally from Kosovo and came to Norway with his family when he was four. He grew up in Oslo and moved to Trondheim to study at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), where he graduated with a PhD in Biophysics in 2016.

After a year of working as a scientist at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, Armend decided to pursue an additional passion: product development. He took a position as Project Manager at Aker BioMarine and later became Director of Product and Technology.

“I’ve always loved science and have done a lot of lab work. But I also am really interested in the product development aspect – getting things out in the world. Leading new initiatives and launching new products at Aker BioMarine provided me with the experience I needed for ClexBio,” he says.

Clex Bio Newslab OM Kinapel 2329

A leap of faith

In 2018, Armend was offered the patent rights for a technology called CLEX, which he co-developed as a part of his PhD at NTNU. He immediately said yes, without realizing the amount of money it would cost him.

“I paid all the patent bills from 2018 to 2020 privately, and eventually it became too expensive to keep it up. So I had to decide whether to go all in full-time or drop the whole thing altogether.”

Armend chose to take a leap of faith. He co-founded ClexBio with Manuel Schweikle, a German national who had just finished his PhD at the University of Oslo. With help from attorney and biopharma expert Andreas Lehmann, now Chairman of the Board of ClexBio, their immediate goal was to raise capital – all while a global pandemic was looming on the horizon.

“Thankfully, Andreas had already invested in a lot of startups. He had the kind of experience that we needed. Our investors were primarily international angel investors, including board members of world-leading biopharma companies from around the world,” Armend reflects.

In spite of all the uncertainty that came with it, the pandemic actually became an advantage in ClexBio’s situation, according to Armend.

“It made people comfortable investing in our company without ever having met us in person,” he says.

Growing body tissue

So what does ClexBio do, exactly – explained to someone who doesn’t have a scientific degree? The concept is actually pretty easy to grasp, Armend Håti insists.

“Our starting point is stem cells from healthy patients, which are sold commercially. There are certain types of biomaterials where cells like to grow, so we’re making a paste called VivoSet, which can be cast into all kinds of 3D geometries, such as organ tissue sheets, venous valves, neural tubes and skin patches. This provides a platform on which various types of body tissues can be grown.”

The company has already demonstrated the power of its platform in various large animal studies, showing that it can safely implant bioengineered human tissue scaffolds that are repopulated by the host’s own cells over time. This could potentially open up a whole new paradigm for truly regenerative implants in areas of medicine where synthetic implants have traditionally failed.

In addition, ClexBio has proven their first-in-class capability to produce large, vascularized tissue sheets which will allow them to develop advanced cell delivery assets, or even multi-cellular tissue therapeutics products.

With animal testing of the technology proving successful, the company plans to conduct its first trial studies with humans in the near future with the goal of addressing Chronic Venous Insufficiency – a debilitating condition for millions of patients that currently don’t have a permanent treatment solution.

“We are simultaneously evaluating our capabilities to incorporate different therapeutic cell types, like insulin-producing beta cells, into our tissues and assessing the market opportunities that each therapeutic cell type presents. At the same time, we are beginning exploratory discussions with potential biopharma co-development partners,” he says.

“ You need diversity to make it, and we’ve been able to attract top talent – biologists, engineers and business developers – from around the world. ”

International team drives success

The market risk for ClexBio is outweighed by the potential benefit the technology can have for scores of patients.

“There are a lot of technological risks involved, but we’re not afraid of them. Bring them on! I thrive on high risk, high intensity and a great opportunity space,” says Armend who describes his current employees as a dream team.

While Norway doesn’t have a tradition for being a biotech hotspot, there are a lot of good things to be said for Oslo as a startup city – not least when it comes to funding opportunities and a well-functioning safety net. The company has made a point of hiring internationals to drive success and getting a global group of top notch investors on board.

“We only hire people who are able to guide us in the right direction. We don’t have the resources or desire to micro-manage our employees," says Armend, adding that the company has ten employees: two grew up in Norway and the others have backgrounds from different countries.

Building an ecosystem

The future seems bright for Armend on a personal level as well as professionally. This year, he became a father for the first time. So it's a growth period for both his family and company.

For ClexBio, Armend expects growth to continue in the highly dynamic area of tissue therapeutics and regenerative medicine. He sees opportunities in the US where the talent pool is bigger and where the biotech groundwork has already been laid, with Europe more broadly remaining an important base for innovation teams and biomanufacturing. And he’ll keep thriving where science and entrepreneurship overlap.

“As ClexBio grows bigger, my role in it may change. The idea of building a biotech ecosystem in Oslo has become a passion for me, after experiencing some of the challenges here first-hand. So maybe I’ll be able to share some of my experience and help the ecosystem grow with a global scope someday.”


Founder: Armend Håti

Country of origin: Kosovo

Company: ClexBio

Year founded: 2020

What the company does: Bioengineers human tissues that grow with the body

Sector: Biotechnology

Number of employees: Ten employees, all with different nationalities

Markets served: Global: US and EU first

How startups and scaleups contribute to Norway's economy

Want know more about how ClexBio and other Oslo-based startups contribute to the Norwegian economy? Nearly 2000 startups and scaleups in the Oslo region have a combined value creation of NOK 3.1 billion and employ 4,500 people. Learn more here.