In the United States alone, about 400,000 people die annually from various forms of lung disease including cancer. 2,000 people are saved with a lung transplant and about the same number are added to the transplant wait list annually. 99% of deaths due to lung failure are unavoidable because of the shortage of transplantable human lungs.
Previous attempts to use animal organs have failed due to genomic incompatibilities, especially with respect to immune and coagulation systems. The collaboration between Synthetic Genomics and Lung Biotechnology aims to eliminate these genomic incompatibilities.
Using DNA design, DNA synthesis and genome editing, as well as genome modification tools, Synthetic Genomics will develop engineered primary pig cells with modified genomes. This work will entail modification of a substantial number of genes at an unprecedented scale and efficiency. United Therapeutics, parent company of Lung Biotechnology, will leverage its xenotransplantation expertise to implant these engineered cells, generating pig embryos which develop and are born with humanized lungs. The companies are striving to develop these new methods and advances to create organs that are safe and effective for use in humans.
Lung Biotechnology made a $50,000,000 investment in Synthetic Genomics.
"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," said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, SGI.