Toronto Partnership to Create Fast Diagnostic Tools to Assess Donated Lungs for Transplant

Alberto Molano, PhD avatar

by Alberto Molano, PhD |

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Plans to create and license diagnostic tools to help transplant surgeons rapidly and accurately assess the health of a lung before it is transplanted are the basis of two research and development agreements between SQI Diagnostics and Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), in Canada.

There is a significant gap between the demand and availability of lungs for transplant. It’s estimated that one in five patients waiting for a lung transplant will die before a suitable organ becomes available. In addition, lungs are extremely susceptible to injury and have one of the lowest utilization rates, at about 20 percent, compared with other solid organs.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for techniques to accurately monitor the health of potentially suitable donor lungs to increase the odds of successful postoperative outcomes.

Currently, surgeons rely on qualitative criteria to determine whether the lungs from a donor are suitable for transplant in critically ill patients with end-stage lung disease, including pulmonary hypertension. Once the organs have been removed from the donor, doctors have a limited period of time to preserve and monitor lung function. Despite advanced preservation techniques, lungs that are about to be transplanted can be injured in ways that surgeons can’t detect.

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Although signs of injury may be invisible to the naked eye, they can be detected by simultaneously measuring a series of inflammatory biomarkers in donor lungs through a technique called a multiplexed protein test, which transplant surgeons can use preoperatively to more accurately verify the health of donor organs, including the lungs.

“Integrating rapid diagnostics is a major step forward in lung transplantation. By providing transplant teams with quantitative metrics to more accurately assess donor lungs, we are moving decision making in transplantation into the era of personalized medicine,” Shaf Keshavjee, MD, who heads the UHN’s Toronto Lung Transplant Program, the largest lung transplant program in the world, said in a press release. “We are pleased to work with SQI, another Canadian pioneer, in advancing health care through leading edge diagnostic advances.”

Partnering with SQI Diagnostics, a Toronto-based life sciences and diagnostics company, UHN plans to create and license a multiplexed test to measure inflammatory biomarkers. The team will also develop a point-of-care diagnostic tool to assess organs at the time and place of patient care instead of sending samples away for examination.

The team hopes to expand the applicability of these diagnostic tools to other organs.

“This agreement represents a reputational landmark for SQI, given the pioneering and global leadership role of Toronto and UHN in the growing field of lung transplantation. It also represents a major long-term commercialization opportunity, ” said Andrew Morris, CEO of SQI Diagnostics.