EryPharm, startup created in 2016, has achieved a revolutionary technological breakthrough to mass-produce cultured red blood cells to develop new sourcing for blood transfusion. Supporting and complementing regular blood donation, this medical product will improve the quality of life of multi-transfused patients who suffer from hereditary or acquired diseases of the red blood cells in particular.
Blood transfusion is an essential medical practice that is frequently under the threat of limited availability. Each year, 120 million blood donations are realized in the world, of which 50% are accessible to only 16% of the world population. Even in developed countries, shortages are not uncommon (ex. aging population or epidemics limit blood collection). Furthermore, a diversity of donors induces the risk of transmitting diseases, even if the supply chain is carefully controlled.
“The COVID-19 responses have significantly impacted the blood supply leading to a steep drop in donations, causing significant shortages in blood centers across the world,” explains Professor Luc Douay, President and Founder of EryPharm. “Today more than ever we need a reliable supplementary supply of blood cells for transfusion.”
After four years of Research and Development, EryPharm is now entering a pilot production phase and scale-up of Cultured Red Blood Cells (cRBC) using Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC). The new drug will complement the conventional transfusion thanks to its multiple benefits:
- Because the population of cultured red blood cells is homogeneously young, their lifespan is expected to be significantly increased. This improved efficacy would allow the reduction of transfusion needs and improves the quality of life for patients.
- Generated from native adult stem cells, they do not necessitate any genetic modification nor pose any ethical problem.
- HSC have been widely used worldwide for decades, and the techniques to collect, prepare, and freeze them are perfectly mastered.
- HSC can be stored in the long-term, ensuring sustained visibility of red blood cells when needed.
- HSC have a great capacity for proliferation and differentiation, making them ideal for producing cRBC for transfusion purposes. “A HSC single donation will produce the equivalent of a hundred blood donations! This is a milestone in the history of blood transfusion,” mentions Professor Luc Douay.
- Transfusion of cultured red blood cells will contribute to decreasing the risks of immunization, infection, and iron overload, resulting in significant medical cost savings.
cRBC will benefit especially patients treated for chronic anemias or with rare blood groups. Hereditary Hemoglobinopathies affect over 25 million people, for whom EryPharm may have a dramatic impact as their transfusions account for 30% of the RBC units used for treating chronic anemia. EryPharm will allow these patients to be transfused in the best conditions of compatibility.
With today’s breakthrough, EryPharm is now completing its second funding round to jumpstart industrial production.
“We are more than thrilled to pave the way to prevent blood shortage and propose to patients in the near future an effective and safe technology,” indicates Professor Luc Douay. “With EryPharm, we will be able to deliver an improved transfusion treatment to patients in recurrent need, whether they suffer from acquired or inherited anemia. More than a new drug, EryPharm paves the way to a new paradigm for transfusion medicine,” he concludes.
EryPharm is a biotech startup created in 2016 and a spin-off from Sorbonne University. EryPharm is the entrepreneurial extension of academic research carried out by Prof. Luc Douay’s team, which pioneered all stages of fundamental research of cultured red blood cells (cRBCs) and started the concept of cRBCs in vivo in animals in 2002. In 2005, they described the generation of cRBCs in vitro from Human Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC) while the first human injection of cRBCs in 2011 demonstrated the proof of the concept and the potential of cRBCs’ technology compared to native RBCs. In 2022, clinical trials will run to confirm the product’s non-toxicity, to be followed by trials in 2023 to confirm the benefits of cRBCs. Go to Market authorization is expected in 2028 at the latest. Follow us @EryPharm