Upstart eGenesis is trying to solve the shortage of organs for donation by using gene-editing tools like CRISPR. They got the grant amount of $38 million to work on it.
The funding was done by Biomatics Capital and ARCH Venture Partners for developing its genome-editing technology to make xenotransplantation (using organs from other animals for human use).
Using the organs from other animals for human transplantation has proven to be complicated. The animals preferred mostly are pigs, as they are of a similar size and physiology to humans. Still, key risks include immunological incompatibility and viral transmission (PERV), which will be the major focus of this research.
Scientists have used CRISPR to cut back the potentially harmful virus genes which have long hampered the successful transfer of pig organs.
The CRISPR-Cas9 tool works as a type of molecular scissors that can selectively trim away unwanted parts of the genome, only started human testing in China late last year, and has yet to begin the U.S. trials.
The study that showed that the pig genome might be edited for removing native pig viruses from pig cells was led by eGenesis’ co-founder George Church, Ph.D., also a Harvard Medical School geneticist. However, It has yet to be shown to be safe in humans.
The science is at a very early stage, something the biotech acknowledges, with its main focus on testing the PERV infectivity in genome-engineered pig cells/tissue, as well as addressing immunological issues.
There are more than 790,000 annual deaths in the U.S. alone due to chronic organ failure, while in China, only 3 million patients need organs, but only a few thousand donations are made each year. So their research is focused on a major issue. A safe and effective xeno-organ has the potential to save millions of patients worldwide. One of the biggest challenges of organ transplants is to wait for an organ to be available. With this technique, the patients don’t have to die waiting for the organ.
The company hopes to use a powerful genome editing platform for creating a pathway toward developing and delivering a safe and effective xenotransplantation solution for patients in need.
Source: Fierce Biotech