Chinese biotech startup raises USD 20 million to grow human tissue and organs in pigs

Gene-editing technology has come a long way.

Photo:Shutterstock.com

Qihan Biotech, a startup focusing on developing so-called xenotransplantation technology, closed a USD 20 million funding round with CMB International and Legendstar, according to 36Kr.

The xenotransplantation technology the firm is working on will use gene-editing to produce human cells, tissues and organs in pigs, which could potentially ease pressure on the current organ shortage.

Every year, more than 300,000 patients in China are waiting for organ transplants, but only a small fraction of patients find compatible organs – in 2017, the country saw 16,000 organ transplant surgeries, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Despite widely seen a solution to organ shortage, xenotransplantation carries potential risks. Among them, the transmission of known or as yet unrecognized xenogeneic infectious agents from animals to human recipients and the possible subsequent transmission to the latter’s close contacts and general public.

Qihan Biotech, a Hangzhou-based company, was set up by Harvard biologist Yang Lunhan in November 2017. Last year, Qihan Biotech finished its Series A funding round with investors including Sequoia China, Arch Venture Partners, Northern Light Venture Capital, Biomatics Capital Partners, and Alta Partners.

Yang is also a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of US-based biotech company eGenesis, which works in a similar field.