George Church spinoff swallows a key manufacturing partner as it preps CRISPR-edited pig organs for animal testing
Researching, cloning and breeding gene-edited pigs are core to eGenesis’ audacious mission to grow organs that can be xenotransplanted into humans. But perhaps unsurprisingly, little of that actually happens at its Cambridge, MA labs.
Rather, the biotech works with external parties for that part of the R&D and manufacturing work. As eGenesis approaches a final version of the gene-edited organs that it will test in animals, it’s acquiring one of those partners and integrating it as a subsidiary.
ICBiotec’s 15-person team will stay in the Midwest. In addition to the existing facilities and equipment, eGenesis also gains access to undeveloped land they can build on.
The way they work together — with eGenesis studying fibroblast cells in dishes and turning over gene-editing payloads they develop in the lab to ICB for further testing — won’t change, said CEO Paul Sekhri; eGenesis is merely transitioning from the largest client of ICB to its owner.
“They have a few other customers that we’ll probably ensure that there’s a proper transition, but to be honest with you I think we will need all of their capabilities, which is one of the reasons why we did the transaction in the first place,” he said.
Despite pandemic-related restrictions, eGenesis is still on track to finalize the recipe for genetically engineering the pigs from which they will harvest organs to test in animal models for safety and efficacy — beginning with the kidney. In the US alone, there are almost 100,000 people on the kidney waiting list but only around 14,000 transplants performed each year.
“The research never stopped, it just was slowed down a bit because you just literally couldn’t have the same concentration of people in the lab as we had in the past,” Sekhri said.
The slog toward the clinic will involve many more regulator hurdles, some of which would be unfamiliar even to the FDA as it deals with the ethical and technical implications of this sci-fi worthy undertaking. The chief requirement for a green light to the clinic, Sekhri has previously noted, is consistent preclinical results among non-human primates.
Moving ICB capabilities in-house adds bandwidth for this crucial exercise, he added. Having bagged $100 million last November, the deal “doesn’t significantly impact our cash runway.”