Dr. Shaf Keshavjee
Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Surgeon-in-Chief, Sprott Department of Surgery, UHN, Director, Toronto Lung Transplant Program, says, "integrating rapid diagnostics is a major step forward in lung transplantation.” (Photo: UHN)​

Patients in need of an organ transplant wait eagerly for news that a suitable organ has been found, but ultimately not every organ from every donor can be used. Donor lungs have one of the lowest utilization rates, and as a result one in five patients in need will die waiting for a lung transplant.

One of the challenges is assessing the health and quality of a donor lung, and deciding if it is suitable for transplantation. That decision today rests on an assessment by the surgeon – a process that currently relies on "qualitative" or subjective factors.

To help improve how lungs are assessed, SQI Diagnostics, a life sciences company based in Toronto, is partnering with Dr. Shaf Keshavjee and the world-renowned Toronto Lung Transplant Program at UHN. The partnership will enable the development of a device that can better inform whether a lung is suitable for transplantation, by using measurable biological readouts of lung health.

The partnership builds on work at UHN that was funded in part by Genome Canada, which is a federal government-funded organization aiming to use genomics-based technologies to improve the lives of Canadians, to identify biomarkers that accurately predict the health of donor lungs and patient outcomes following transplant.

Ex-vivo lung
UHN is a leader in improving the utilization of donor lungs, finding biomarkers to predict transplant success and in developing the Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion method (pictured) to preserve function. (Photo: UHN)

SQI will bring its expertise in developing point-of-care devices to create a multiplex test sensitive to protein biomarkers predictive of lung health, with a rapid time-to-result that is critical to the lung transplant decision-making process.

"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," says Andrew Morris, CEO of SQI Diagnostics. "It also represents a major long-term commercialization opportunity.

"SQI's multi-array testing is proving to be applicable in areas well beyond drug development and disease identification."

UHN's Technology Development and Commercialization Office negotiated the research and licensing agreements and will help ensure that the long-term commercialization opportunity is realized.

"Integrating rapid diagnostics is a major step forward in lung transplantation," says Dr. Keshavjee. "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."

​This work was funded by the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and Ontario Genomics ​

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