Fre 14 jun / År 42 / Nr 1 2024

Transplantation Without Immunosuppression

NovaHep AB provides a unique and ground-breaking technology for biological engineering of individualised blood vessels and other organs for transplantation. The technology circumvents the patient’s immune system, thereby avoiding the need for immunosuppressive drugs.

Even though it’s possible to live with a transplanted organ sourced from another person, who isn’t closest in kin, the cost is a life without an immune system. NovaHep’s technology, on the other hand, circumvents the patient’s immune system, leaving it intact.
To make this possible, all cells are removed from the sourced organ, leaving a scaffold, or extra cellular matrix, of proteins with factors signalling to the cells if they are to be blood vessel cells, liver cells, kidney cells etc.
“Then we add new cells, the patient’s own stem cells from a blood sample. To recellularise a blood vessel, which could be sourced from a deceased human donor and in the future potentially even from an animal, we only need 25ml of blood, flowing through the vessel for a week,” says Petter Björquist, CEO of NovaHep AB.
The first patient was a 10-year old girl who had very little blood flow from her intestine to the liver through the portal vein. By employing NovaHep’s technology, a vein from a deceased donor was sourced and developed into an individualised vein, transplanted into the girl. Proper blood flow into her liver began, and her life was changed.
This girl and another two treated patients have since then experienced no complications related to NovaHep’s technology and neither of them have had the need to take any kind of immunosuppressive drugs.
The technology is generic and works on any type of organ: heart, liver, pancreas, nerves, skin, blood vessels etc. “There’s, for instance, a great demand for liver tissue, not least for pharmaceutical testing,” Petter Björquist comments.

Cornerstone in Portfolio
In April, the company gained more financial muscles when GemVax Technology Co. Ltd, based in South Korea, made a significant investment and became a shareholder in NovaHep, alongside the founders and existing shareholder Alden Holdings Capital Ltd.
“We’re currently recruiting more staff to build up an organisation for large-scale production, clinical trials and commercialisation. In June, we signed an agreement with IRW Consulting AB for running a first clinical trial at Oslo University Hospital, using our personalised tissue-engineered vein (P-TEV) technology.”
The trial targets Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a disease causing damage to the patient’s legs, and is the first of its kind in the world. CVI affects a big patient group, with approx. two million patients only in the West. The P-TEV will be produced in a GMP accredited facility at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
”This study will be the first cornerstone in NovaHep’s portfolio of tissue-engineered products,” concludes Petter Björquist of this promising Gothenburg company situated in the Biotech-house on Medicinareberget.