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SGI, Lung Bio Collaborate on Pig Organs for Human Transplantation; SGI Receives $50M Investment

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Synthetic Genomics and Lung Biotechnology today announced a collaboration to develop humanized pig organs for transplantation into patients.

Lung Biotechnology has also invested $50 million in SGI, they said.

The multiyear R&D collaboration will initially focus on lung diseases and will leverage SGI's technological capabilities, including its DNA design, DNA synthesis, and genome editing, as well as genome modification expertise to develop engineered primary pig cells with modified genomes. The work will involve the modification of a significant number of genes "at an unprecedented scale and efficiency," La Jolla, Calif.-based SGI said in a statement.

United Therapeutics, the parent firm of Lung Biotechnology, will uses its expertise in xenotransplantation to implant the engineered cells in order to generate pig embryos born with humanized lungs.

SGI will receive royalties and milestone incentives from the development and commercialization of organs. Further terms were not disclosed.

"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," SGI Founder and CEO Craig Venter said in a statement.

SGI and Lung Biotechnology said that in the US 400,000 people die each year from lung disease including cancer. Only about 2,000 people have a lung transplant that saves their lives, while the same number of people is added to the transplant waiting list each year. Because of the shortage of transplantable human lungs, less than 1 percent of deaths from lung failure can be avoided, they added.

Previous efforts using animal organs to address the problem have failed because of genomic incompatibilities, particularly in relation to the immune and coagulation systems, the firms said. Their work aims to eliminate these genomic incompatibilities.

"Our new collaboration with Synthetic Genomics is huge for accelerating our efforts to cure end-stage lung disease," United Therapeutics Chairman and CEO Martine Rothblatt said. "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."