Methuselah Foundation, a medical charity based in Springfield, VA, announced today at the World Stem Cell Summit in San Diego the official launch of the $1 million New Organ Liver Prize, a five-year international competition to advance the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
The New Organ Liver Prize is the first in a series of whole organ challenges and awards designed to help solve the global organ shortage, which affects millions of people around the world. There are presently over 120,000 on the organ wait list in the U.S alone, many of whom will die before finding a compatible donor. Even those fortunate enough to receive an organ in time face ongoing medical difficulties, often for the rest of their lives.
New prospects for whole organ regeneration, engineering, and preservation offer potentially powerful solutions to this health crisis, but tissue engineering research is currently underfunded, receiving less than $500 million annually in the U.S. compared to $5 billion for cancer and $2.8 billion for HIV/ AIDS. Neither the NIH nor the NSF provide significant funding for whole organ tissue engineering, and the “eld also suffers from difficult regulatory hurdles as well as broader shortfalls in biotechnology investment for pre-clinical research.
Methuselah Foundation CEO David Gobel commented, “Regenerative medicine is the future of healthcare, but right now the “eld is falling through the cracks. The New Organ Liver Prize is a celebration of how far we’ve come in organ transplantation to date, and a rallying flag to mobilize the funding and attention required to take it to the next level.”
Bernard Siegel, founder and co-chair of the World Stem Cell Summit and executive director of the Genetics Policy Institute (GPI), said, “Growing a whole, healthy organ is one of the ultimate goals of regenerative medicine. The world stem cell community enthusiastically supports the ambitious aim of the Methuselah Foundation in launching the New Organ Liver Prize and the mobilization of this competitive challenge for researchers to cure disease and alleviate human suffering through tissue engineering.”
New Organ has been endorsed by prominent doctors and scientists across the field of regenerative medicine, including Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest, Dr. Stephen Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh, and the Founding Fellows of TERMIS (Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society).
“Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering are at the cusp of conquering the final frontier, the fabrication of vital organs to definitively solve the organ donor shortage,” said Dr. Joseph Vacanti of Massachusetts General Hospital. “New Organ will help catalyze the efforts to solve the remaining problems to bring this life saving technology to all of the people who desperately need it.”
Incentive prizes can be powerful levers for raising the visibility and prestige of scientists working in new areas of research. Prizes have helped launch entire industries in the past, such as the Orteig Prize won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, which transformed U.S. aviation. They are known for attracting new capital to difficult problems, motivating top minds as well as non-traditional players, accelerating timelines of discovery, forcing regulatory reform, and galvanizing public demand.
Due to the complexity of defining strong competition criteria for each of the solid organs, including the heart, kidney, and lungs, this prize will focus exclusively on tissue engineering solutions that replace the liver. Ultimately, the Methuselah Foundation intends to develop a prize series that covers all of the major solid organs, and that spans multiple strategies, including organ regeneration, repair, replacement, and preservation. Through its New Organ Alliance, Methuselah also hopes to mobilize other granting institutions to allocate additional funds in support of teams competing for the prize.
Key developments in tissue engineering:
At Yokohama City University in Japan, Dr. Takebe and colleagues constructed tiny ‘liver buds’ from three different cell types. When transplanted into a mouse on the verge of liver failure, the organoids connected to the host’s blood vessels, enabling the cells to proliferate and perform liver functions.
In addition, Dr. Eric Lagasse has grown thriving mini-livers by incubating healthy liver cells inside the lymph nodes of live mice with liver disease. These tiny organs share some functions with full livers.
Lab grown bladders:
Dr. Anthony Atala and colleagues at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have grown and transplanted bladders created from the cells of children and teenagers with congenital birth defects, such as Luke Massella, who was 10 years old at the time and is now a healthy college graduate.
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini and colleagues have transplanted tracheas successfully for multiple patients, creating them each time from a patient’s cells to avoid rejection and immunosuppression.
Biotech startup Organovo prints cells in a scaffold to create three-dimensional shapes. They have achieved success with synthetic blood vessels and miniaturized cellular 3D human liver tissue.
Dr. Stephen Badylak and colleagues at the McGowan Institute have developed scaffolds that signal the body to harness its own repair mechanisms. As part of an early study, Afghanistan veteran Sergeant Ronald Strang was able to regrow new leg muscle to replace the muscle lost from a roadside bomb.
At the University of Minnesota Dr. Doris Taylor led the creation of organ scaffolds from decellularized human hearts. The structures were seeded with adult stem cells and regrown to share characteristics with functioning hearts, including beating at the speed of a resting heart rate.
At Yale University Dr. Laura Niklason and colleagues cultured lung tissue in the laboratory using an extracellular matrix. The tissue functioned for nearly two hours once it was transplanted into a live rat.
Dr. Harold Ott and colleagues have grown rat kidneys by seeding deceullarized kidney scaffolds. These bioengineered organs were transplanted into rats and successfully produced urine while also showing 5% of the regular organ’s functionality when clearing creatinine from the blood.
Learn More About it: US Health & Human Services: 2020: A New Vision – A Future for Regenerative Medicine
About Methuselah Foundation
the Methuselah Foundation is a medical charity working to advance the field of regenerative medicine in order to extend healthy life. By fostering disruptive developments in biomedical engineering, it seeks to build a world where 90 year-olds can be as healthy as 50 year-olds, by 2030. Learn more at www.methuselahfoundation.org.
About World Stem Cell Summit
The World Stem Cell Summit is the flagship meeting of the international stem cell community. The Summit aims to accelerate the discovery and development of lifesaving cures and therapies, bringing global stakeholders together to solve global challenges. It builds a foundation to advance cell therapies by establishing a supportive environment of regulation, legislation, financing, reimbursement, and patient advocacy. e 2013 World Stem Cell Summit will be held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, in San Diego, CA, December 4-6, 2013. It is presented by Genetics Policy Institute GPI and is co-organized by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Scripps Research Institute, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, and Kyoto University Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS). For more information, visit www.worldstemcellsummit.com.
CONTACT: Florina Linco, Community Director, Methuselah Foundation, (206) 643-8175,