Biotech companies CollPlant and United Therapeutics Corporation have signed an agreement for the licensing, development and commercialization of 3D bioprinted lungs for transplant. The companies will leverage their respective specializations: CollPlant will offer its proprietary recombinant human collagen (rhCollagen) and bioink technology, while United Therapeutics will use its expertise in regenerative medicine and organ manufacturing.
Bringing CollPlant technology to the U.S.
The specifics of the partnership stipulate that United Therapeutics’ subsidiary Lung Biotechnology PBC will be granted an exclusive license to CollPlant’s bioprinting technology so that it can make bioprinted lung transplants using rhCollagen-based BioInk.
Notably, Israel-based CollPlant will produce and supply the bioink material to United Therapeutics for “a few years” until United Therapeutics has established its own U.S.-based facility for manufacturing CollPlant’s rhCollagen and BioInk. Throughout the establishment of this facility, CollPlant says it will provide technical support to United Therapeutics.
Though United Therapeutics will initially focus on the production of transplantable bioprinted lungs, the company also has the opportunity to explore the use of CollPlant’s bioink technology for up to three more organs. Lungs, which are arguably closer to commercialization than other vital organs such as the heart and liver, seem like a logical place to begin the partnership.
As part of the licensing agreement, United Therapeutics will pay CollPlant $5 million up front as well as milestone payments of up to $15 million—this amount will be determined based on how the operational and regulatory phases of the 3D bioprinted lungs progress.
If United Therapeutics ultimately does explore bioprinting for other types of organs, CollPlant is also eligible for milestone payments of up to $15 million. The agreement also includes the option of exercise payments of up to $9 million.
Finally, CollPlant will also be set to receive royalties on any sales of commercialized products which are covered by patents licensed by the company, as well as reimbursement for certain costs.
Strategic bioprinting partnership
“We strongly believe that our proprietary and proven rhCollagen is the finest building block for regenerative medicine scaffolds available today, and will play a critical role in the organ manufacturing process,” commented Yehiel Tal, Chief Executive Officer of CollPlant. “As a pioneer in the field, United Therapeutics is the perfect partner for us.
“This strategic agreement is a major achievement for CollPlant as it aligns us with a global leader, validates our technology and creates value for our shareholders. We are honored to have established this important collaboration with United Therapeutics and look forward to working together to bring lifesaving organs to humanity.”
Martine Rothblatt, PhD, Chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics, added: ”We are excited to work with CollPlant’s extraordinary Israeli technology to transform the tobacco plant that is so associated with lung disease into a collagen-expressing plant that will be essential to the production of an unlimited number of transplantable lungs.”
CollPlant, for those unfamiliar, has developed a technology that uses tobacco plants to produce collagen. They have achieved this by genetically engineering tobacco seedlings to have five human genes that are needed to produce collagen. Collagen, of course, is the most prevalent protein in mammals and is the main element of connective tissue. Being able to recreate collagen using plants has had significant implications for the future of bioprinting.
CollPlant has raised significant investments and grants over the past couple of years—including $8 million this past May—helping it to advance its innovative bioprinting materials. The licensing agreement with United Therapeutics marks a significant step forward for bioprinting organs and specifically lungs.