A Cambridge, MA.-based firm got a $38 million boost towards it goal of harvesting animal organs to give to humans in dire need of a transplant. eGenesis, a spin-out from Harvard University, hopes to improve the supply of organs for patients that are stuck on the transplant waiting list.
While the seemingly science-fiction field of xenotransplantation is far away from bringing products into the clinic, it has grown in recent years thanks to the development of biological modification techniques like CRISPR-Cas9.
The genetic modification tool acts as guided scissors to target a stretch of genes, snip them out and sometimes swap in new ones.
After its launch in 2014, eGenesis published a study, led by renowned geneticist George Church, that described 62 edits they made in a pig cell to rid it of potentially harmful native pig retroviruses.
The firm also worked, using CRISPR-Cas9, to soften the human body’s immune reaction against foreign tissue. In order to prevent the human host from rejecting the pig organ, eGenesis needs to devise a way to blunt the immune’s system natural response to foreign tissues.
Cofounder and chief scientific officer Luhan Yang told Xconomy that if even if they figure out how to prevent organ rejection, patients will still need to take a regimen of immunosuppressants.
The company revealed to the news outlet that it has begun raising pigs from the genetically altered embryonic cells, but did not say if any of them have proven viable.
More than 118,000 people are on the transplant waiting list in the U.S. While the number of transplants rose to 33,000 last year, the supply is not sufficient to meet the need.
Biomatics Capital Partners and Arch Venture Partners were the lead investors in eGenesis’ Series A round.