The transplantation of pig organs into humans moved a step closer to reality after investors upped their bets, pouring in $100 million, on the work of biotechnology company eGenesis.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts company uses new gene-editing technologies to make the organs safe for humans. The money from a Series B financing brings the company’s total to $138 million, according to data from PitchBook.
The cash infusion will accelerate a program to create an alternative source of human-compatible organs and hasten the development of porcine kidney transplantation, according to a statement from eGenesis Thursday. Human testing of the organs may begin in the next few years, eGenesis CEO Paul Sekhri told Bloomberg.
EGenesis says 20 Americans die each day while waiting for a human organ transplant, and the company’s goal is to reduce that number. Scientists have long considered pig organs as the most compatible animal organs for humans but the idea hasn’t been viable because of rejection and other issues. EGenesis plans to tackle the problems by using Crispr, a biotechnology that works like a pair of scissors, enabling scientists to remove or replace specific sections of DNA coding.
“The concept of cross-species organ replacement, known as xenotransplantation, has re-emerged due to recent advancements in gene editing led by eGenesis, and will become a safe and effective solution for the hundreds of thousands of patients currently on the organ transplant waitlist globally,” Sekhri said in the statement.
Venture capital and private-equity investment in xenotransplantation companies — led by eGenesis and its competitor Qihan Biotech — have been on the upswing over the past five years.
In addition to kidneys, eGenesis is working on transplantation of insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas as well as livers, hearts and lungs.
The latest round of financing was led by Fresenius Medical Care Ventures and included new investors Leaps by Bayer and Wellington Partners. Other participants included ARCH Venture Partners, Biomatics Capital, Alta Partners and Khosla Ventures.
- The Vatican approved xenotransplantation almost two decades ago, according to Nature.
- Medicine has taken small steps toward xenotransplantation over the past few years.
Karma’s Scarlett Kuang contributed to this story