By creating and licensing multiplexed protein assays and point-of-care diagnostic strategies, they intend to improve the health of donor organs so they can be transplanted safely to end-stage lung disease patients, including cystic fibrosis patients.
One of the main challenges when transplanting organs is to confirm the suitability of the donor organ. This means finding ways to analyze whether an organ is healthy enough to be transplanted.
The challenge to find suitable donor organs, and the subsequent donor lung shortage — last year only 6,000 lungs were transplanted worldwide due to a shortage of donor organs — have led lungs to have one of the lowest transplant rates (20%) compared with other solid organs.
The selection of “good” organs is based mainly on the surgeon’s clinical assessments, which rely on clinical factors available during the donation process. However, even with proper lung assessments and preservation techniques, including the Toronto Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion technology — an approach considered to improve the assessment and preservation of donor lungs — injuries in the donor lung may not be apparent during the transplant process, possibly resulting in suboptimal patient outcomes.
SQI and UHN aim to create tools that can find specific biomarkers to predict the suitability of donor lungs for transplant.
One of the strategies is a so-called multiplexed protein assay, which can measure multiple proteins in one experiment. Application of the assay for diagnostic purposes could allow transplant surgeons to find specific biomarkers that verify organs are suitable for transplant.
A second strategy is a diagnostic approach known as point-of-care testing, which allows diagnostics at the time and place of care instead of sending samples away for examination.
“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, PhD, said in a press release. Keshavje is director of the Toronto Lung Transplant Program at UHN and professor at the University of Toronto.
“We are pleased to work with SQI, another Canadian pioneer, in advancing healthcare through leading edge diagnostic advances,” Keshavjee said.
SQI is a Toronto-based diagnostics company that develops multiplexed tests and automated systems to measure biomarkers in organs and blood.
“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,” said Andrew Morris, CEO of SQI Diagnostics. “SQI’s multi-array testing is proving to be applicable in areas well beyond drug development and disease identification.”
The research collaboration also aims to expand the use of their tools to organs other than lungs.