The Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech, which is using gene editing technologies for the development of safe and effective human-compatible organs, tissues, and cells to address the global organ shortage, said proceeds will be used to bring its lead programs in kidney and islet cell transplant into human proof-of-concept studies.
In addition, the capital will go towards the continued development of its gene-editing platform and scaling of GMP production.
Srini Akkaraju, founder and managing general partner at Samsara BioCapital, one of the investors in the round, said the work eGenesis is doing in kidney and islet cell transplants could address the fast-growing unmet need for patients with kidney failure and type 1 diabetes. “eGenesis has developed a scientific platform that will transform transplant medicine.”
Other investors in the capital raising exercise included Farallon Capital Management, Polaris Partners, HBM Healthcare Investments, Invus, Samsara BioCapital, LifeSci Venture Partners, Irving Investors, Catalio Capital Management, SymBiosis, Altium Capital, Monashee Investment Management, and Osage University Partners.
Existing investors - Leaps by Bayer, Fresenius Medical Care Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Wellington Partners, Khosla Ventures, and Alta Partners - also participated in the round.
Organ demand outstrips supply
The demand for lifesaving organs far outnumbers available supply. “In the US alone, more than 110,000 people are on the national transplant list. 20 people die every day due to lack of available organs for transplant and every 10 minutes a new name is added to the national transplant waiting list,” said the developer.
The company is looking to address the key issues that have impeded xenotransplantation, which is the transplantation of organs, tissue, and cells from one species to date.
While the concept of xenotransplantation has been explored for decades, with the pig considered the most suitable donor for humans, virology and immunology hurdles prevented the field from advancing beyond early preclinical research.
With the advent of advanced gene editing technologies, such as CRISPR, addressing these historical challenges is now within reach, maintains eGenesis.
Currently, eGenesis is advancing an initial product toward the clinic for kidney transplant, with the longer-term potential of addressing a broader organ recipient population and expanding the applicability of xenotransplantation into other areas such as cell therapy.
In November last year, the company announced a research collaboration with Duke University School of Medicine. That alliance will leverage eGenesis’ genome engineering and transgenic production capabilities to conduct in-vivo testing of pancreatic islet cell xenotransplants in non-human primate recipients, as a prerequisite to advancing to xeno-human clinical trials for type 1 diabetes patients.
The research will be conducted in the laboratory of Dr Allan Kirk, Professor in the Department of Immunology at Duke University School of Medicine. “There are 1.6 million Americans who live with type 1 diabetes and whose quality of life is greatly impacted by the monitoring of their glucose levels and the need for multiple insulin injections on a daily basis,” he said. “With advancements in gene editing technology, there is now the potential of developing and safely transplanting human compatible xeno-islet cells, which could allow these patients to reduce or eliminate their need for glucose monitoring and insulin injections. The research we will conduct at Duke will help determine whether a minimally-invasive approach into human clinical studies might be possible.”
That collaboration is in addition to an existing eGenesis partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, which the biotech initiated in 2017, and which was expanded upon last June. The partners are evaluating the xenotransplantation of organs that have come from gene edited pigs in non-human primates as a base to testing these organs in humans. While the primary focus is on kidney xenotransplants, the collaboration will also investigate other tissues and organs.