In 1967, in Cape Town, South Africa, a surgeon named Dr. Christiaan Barnard successfully transplanted the heart of a 25-year-old woman who had died in a car accident into the body of a 55-year-old grocer who was dying of heart disease. While the surgery was a success, the recipient died 18 days later. Others who copied Dr. Barnard’s method were also successful in undertaking the transplant, only to lose the patient relatively quickly as a result of the body’s rejection of the transplanted organ as foreign material.
Others soon took up the issue of organ rejection, notably at the Cardiac Transplant Program at Columbia University Medical Center, which began in 1971. The development of immunosuppressants helped to drastically increase the rate and length of survival for those undergoing transplant procedures and in 1984, the first successful pediatric heart transplant in the world was undertaken at Columbia. That same year, a 12-day-old girl was the recipient of a baboon heart, but this type of cross-species transplant, while sensational, has never been sufficiently successful to merit serious experimentation.
In the intervening years, the survival rate of heart transplant recipients has continued to increase. Currently, approximately 85-90% of recipients survive their first year after surgery, and the three-year survival rate is nearly 75%. In a study of heart transplant patients at the University Hospital in Switzerland, it was found that a remarkable number of patients survived 20 years or more after having undergone the procedure, “confirming the procedure as the gold standard for end-stage heart failure.”
Each year, worldwide, approximately 5,000 heart transplant procedures are undertaken, about 2,500 of those in the United States. However, in the neighborhood of 4,000 people each year are awaiting heart transplants in the US and the majority of those who do not receive the needed transplant continue to wait because of a lack of available donor organs. Having made great advances in the procedure and in the medications to suppress rejection, the biggest roadblock to increasing the number of successful heart transplants is simply the number of hearts. For this reason, great hopes have been associated with the development of 3D bioprinting capabilities that one they, one day, might lead to the ability to produce the organs directly, thereby eliminating the difficulties associated with the restriction of their supply.
While this is held as a pipe dream by some, BIOLIFE4D is looking to tackle this issue head on and in order to do so, they need to gather the funding necessary for such an undertaking. As a result, they have determined that the time is ripe to launch a Regulation A+ (Mini-IPO) offering with the hopes of raising $50 million, a plan they have been working toward. As the CEO of BIOLIFE4D, Steven Morris, explained at the opening of the offering:
The hope is that research will allow them to leverage current understanding of stem cells and bioprinting technology in order to create the material from which a new heart could be created. Taking an MRI image of the patient’s heart, they will create a digital model that can then serve to direct their 3D bioprinter, just as a 3D model directs an ordinary 3D printer, but with actual heart cells, ready for transplant into the patient. If they are able to raise the funding and to complete this research, it would revolutionize the way we think about organ transplants. Not only would it address the problem of organ shortages, but it would also eliminate the problems associated with rejection of the donor organ as the donor organ, in these cases, would be created with the patient’s own cells.
“Today is a milestone day for BIOLIFE4D, as we open our Regulation A+ offering to enable investment not only in our company, but in the future of heart transplant treatment and technology. We have already received tremendous interest and we are excited to welcome investors that are passionate about making a difference in the lives of so many. Heart disease is the cause of one in every four deaths in the United States, and it’s time for that to change. We have assembled an incomparable team of scientific and medical advisors that are leading the development of our revolutionary technology. Starting today, we hope you’ll join us in giving the greatest gift you can give – the gift of time.”
The shares are being offered for sale on the company’s website at $10 USD per share with a minimum investment of 25 shares, with a total of 5,000,000 on offer.
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