Synthetic Genomics (SGI) signed a multi-year R&D deal with Lung Biotechnology to develop humanized pig organs using synthetic genomic advances. The collaboration will focus on developing organs for human patients in need of transplantation, starting with lung diseases.

As part of the agreement SGI will receive royalties and milestone incentives from the development and commercialization of the organs. SGI is also announcing a $50 million equity investment by Lung Biotechnology, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Lung Biotechnology and United Therapeutics to advance organ transplantation,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder and CEO, SGI. “We believe that our proprietary synthetic genomic tools and technologies, coupled with United Therapeutics' knowledge and advances in regenerative medicine technologies and treatment of lung diseases, should enable us to develop humanized pig organs for safe and effective transplant into humans. We believe this is one of the most exciting and important programs ever undertaken in modern medical science.”

“Our combined expertise should enable us to develop an unlimited supply of transplantable organs, potentially helping millions of patients who die from end-stage organ disease,” added Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D., chairman and CEO at United Therapeutics, added.

According to Dr. Venter, using unique DNA design, DNA synthesis, and genome editing, as well as genome modification tools, SGI will develop engineered primary pig cells with modified genomes. The work will entail modification of a large number of genes. United Therapeutics will leverage its xenotransplantation expertise to implant these engineered cells, generating pig embryos that develop and are born with humanized lungs.

With the science and technology advances made by the SGI team in recent years, the companies are striving to develop these new methods and advances to create organs that are safe and effective for use in humans, explained Dr. Venter. 

It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, about 400,000 people die annually from various forms of lung disease including cancer. Only 2,000 people are saved with a lung transplant and only about 2,000 are added to the transplant wait list annually.

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