Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and United Therapeutics Corporation (NASDAQ: UTHR) today announced a collaboration to build and operate a lung restoration center on the Mayo campus. The goal is to significantly increase the volume of lungs for transplantation by preserving and restoring selected marginal donor lungs, making them viable for transplantation. The restored lungs will be made available to patients at Mayo Clinic and other transplant centers throughout the United States.
Construction of the center is expected to be completed in late 2017. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
'This collaboration is exciting because it allows Mayo Clinic to bring the latest advances in life-saving technology to transplant patients,' says Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., chief executive officer of Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida. 'Ultimately, this relationship will help Mayo Clinic expand its reach to patients who could benefit from this innovation. Increasing the number of lungs available for transplantation provides more options for patients suffering from pulmonary disease.'
As part of the agreement, Mayo Clinic will lease land on its campus to a subsidiary of United Therapeutics to construct, equip and operate the center. Mayo Clinic will provide physician oversight as well as procure and deliver lungs to the center for restoration in coordination with organ procurement organizations. In addition, the organizations plan to work together on regenerative medicine research --- a game-changing area of medicine with the potential to heal damaged tissues and organs. The two organizations also may collaborate to develop similar lung restoration centers at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Arizona and Minnesota.
'We are honored to work with Mayo Clinic to expand the supply of transplantable lungs,' said Martine Rothblatt, chairman & co-chief executive officer of United Therapeutics. 'Mayo Clinic was uniquely able to save my father's mobility after a car accident fifty years ago, and I have held them in awe ever since.'
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 123,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. About 1,600 people are waiting for a lung transplant and many more could benefit from a transplant if more donor lungs were available. Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national waiting list at the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system. On average, about 18 people die every day waiting for transplants that can't take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
United Therapeutics was founded in 1996 as a biotechnology company focused on developing products for pulmonary arterial hypertension. One of its key projects is to develop solutions to the shortage of transplantable organs, including through ex-vivo lung perfusion technology, the process by which marginal donor lungs are treated with specialized solutions and gases that can reverse lung injury and remove excess fluids in the lung, and making them clinically viable for transplant.
'Only about 1 percent of people who sign organ donor cards die in a way that renders their organs transplantable, and most of those precious few lungs are currently discarded due to their rapid deterioration upon death,' noted Rothblatt, who earned her Ph.D. on the medical ethics of organ transplantation. 'We are confident that our ex-vivo lung perfusion technology will enable many of those otherwise discarded lungs to instead be used as gifts of life to patients on the lung transplant waiting list.'
Mayo Clinic has one of the nation's largest and most experienced transplant practices, with campuses in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. More than 200 physicians in transplant medicine and surgery at the three campuses perform about 1,800 transplants a year and have a long track record of excellent outcomes. Mayo Clinic established its lung transplant program on the Florida campus in 2001. Since then, Mayo has performed 469 lung transplants and eight heart-lung transplants. The survival rate at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida exceeds the national average by 5 percent (1-year patient survival rate at Mayo is 93 percent versus 88 percent nationally).
'At Mayo Clinic, we are committed to delivering the highest quality of care to each and every patient,' Farrugia says. 'Our collaboration with United Therapeutics is a great example of how we are continuously looking for new ways to improve access to care, expand the science and improve patient outcomes across the United States.'