Thursday marks the grand opening of Mayo Clinic’s new Discovery and Innovation Building, home to a pioneering technology that will increase the number of lungs available for transplant as well as a new hub for Northeast Florida’s entrepreneurs to get together, share ideas, develop new products and services, and create new companies.
Lungs are one of the most fragile and difficult organs to transplant. They’re susceptible to injuries and infections and only about 20% of donor lungs in the U.S. meet transplant standards. About 300 people die every year while waiting for a lung transplant and there are around 1,400 people waiting for one right now.
Back in 2015, Mayo Clinic announced a collaboration with United Therapeutics, the company that developed ex-vivo lung perfusion (EVLP) - a technology that flushes and ventilates donor lungs as they’re monitored in isolation, allowing transplant programs to re-evaluate lungs that would otherwise be discarded.
As part of that agreement, Mayo leased land at its Jacksonville location to Lung Biotechnology PBC (a wholly owned subsidiary of United Therapeutics) to construct the building and equip and operate the center. Staff at Mayo will oversee and work with organ procurement organizations to coordinate the acquirement and delivery of lungs, which will be perfused by Lung Bioengineering (a subsidiary of Lung Biotechnology PBC). Those lungs will be available to patients at Mayo and other transplant centers.
Mayo Clinic and United Therapeutics will also collaborate on manufacturing cell-based therapies for regenerative medicine research, which could help heal damaged tissue and organs.
“We are excited to work with United Therapeutics in this important and lifesaving collaboration that ultimately will increase the number of lungs for transplant patients,” said Kent Thielen, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida. “Mayo Clinic is firmly committed to using and developing the latest medical advances and innovations that will have tremendous benefits not only for our patients, but other patients at institutions throughout the U.S.”
The new building houses three EVLP surgical suites on the first floor as well as a collaborative space for conducting cell-based therapy production on the second floor.
“We are honored to work with Mayo Clinic to expand the supply of transplantable lungs,” said Martine Rothblatt, chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics. “Hundreds of additional transplantable lungs have been made available through EVLP technology, and we have more than doubled the number of hours that a lung can be outside of a body before being safely transplanted. In addition we hope to prevent the need for some lung transplants and to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia with new biologic medicines we will manufacture in the new building.”
The third floor of the new Discover and Innovation Building houses Mayo Clinic’s new Life Sciences Incubator, which aims to bring together innovators from across the region and provide a hub for entrepreneurs to explore ideas, develop new health care and life science products and services, and create new companies.
“The Mayo Clinic Life Sciences Incubator will provide entrepreneurs in the community with a dedicated facility and structured programming that links local startups to an array of regional business, science, and investment resources - a partnership of significant and numerous regional assets,” said Charles Bruce, Chief Innovation Officer at Mayo Clinic in Florida and medical director at the incubator. “In turn, a lasting business environment will thrive in the Jacksonville area that spurs new solutions for patients around the world.”
The Life Sciences Incubator was awarded a $750,000 federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in July. Mayo plans to use those funds to collaborate with a dozen regional partners, potentially contributing as much as $12 million to the local economy and creating 120 jobs in Jacksonville.
“This award is a clear sign of Mayo Clinic’s commitment to the region, our efforts to grow the economy, and attracting top talent in the life sciences field,” Dr. Bruce said. “Mayo Clinic has earned the confidence and pledged collaboration from the research, business, and economic development communities throughout Northeast Florida, as well as the backing of local and state government agencies.”