A Liverpool-based spin-out from a London research centre is tackling the chronic shortage of donor organs in the United Kingdom by developing technology which generates replacement organs that can be transplanted into patients
Videregen has just secured a further £1.2 million investment to develop the world’s first commercially available replacement organs engineered from a patient’s own stem cells. By removing the cells from donor organs, leaving a basic structure onto which a patient’s own cells can be seeded, the new technology produces a healthy organ that is far less likely to be rejected by the body.
In the UK there are over 7,000 people on the national waiting list for an organ transplant and up to 1,000 people die each year due to a shortage of donor organs. The company, founded in 2011 by science entrepreneur Steve Bloor and based on research carried out at Northwick Park Institute of Medical Research in Harrow, is currently focusing on trachea (windpipe) replacements, expected to go into clinical trials next year, with bowel and liver replacements expected to follow in due course.
Few people currently undergo a windpipe transplant because the organ does not have a distinct blood supply, making it hard for doctors to keep it alive between patients, and because the risks of rejection outweigh the benefits of the transplant. This means people with severe structural airway disease have a 50% chance of dying if they are not treated successfully.
Videregen’s bespoke windpipes have the potential to overcome both these barriers, and Bloor says the same technique could potentially be used to make a pig’s liver suitable for human transplantation, by removing the pig’s cells and replacing them with a patient’s. He explains:
“The cells are what makes an organ alive. Without those, it’s really just a shell and what we’re doing is using the patient’s own cells to create a perfect match for the individual who needs it. Organ transplants are a great medical procedure that work well and save lives; the main challenge is the shortage of suitable donor organs. Solving that is our reason for being, and it’s hugely exciting to be so close to taking this technology to clinical trials.”
The news comes as London’s Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise Kit Malthouse launches Angels in MedCity – a new drive to increase the level of investment available to promising life sciences companies to ensure that more medical therapies and technologies can make it into the healthcare system.
Aimed at new and current investors, the programme seeks to promote London’s entrepreneurial culture with a series of free workshops to give investors the tools they need to understand the healthcare market.
Kit Malthouse says: “London is one of the world’s leading financial hubs, and there is enormous potential to position it as a major centre for life sciences investment, which will attract up and coming enterprises from across the world to base here, bringing great benefits to our economy and our health services. I’m delighted that Angels in MedCity is kicking off the drive to demonstrate what a great investment opportunity life sciences presents.”
MedCity was launched by Mayor of London Boris Johnson in April this year to promote investment and enterprise in the world-leading medicine and life sciences sector of the London-Oxford-Cambridge ‘golden triangle’. It is launching Angels in MedCity in partnership with London Business Angels and Angels4LifeSciences.