Page Content
Three male physicians wearing business suits sitting in a modern waiting room, looking at camera.

June 28, 2022

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

In 2018, C. Burcin Taner, M.D., chair of the Transplant Center at Mayo Clinic in Florida, and Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic — then CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida, discussed the next steps in Mayo’s transplant programs. Mayo Clinic has had very strong clinical transplant programs, but more was needed to meet the needs of people with failing organs. Much more.

They looped in Guojun Bu, Ph.D., the Jorge and Leslie Bacardi Associate Director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine in Florida and the Mary Lowell Leary Professor; and Tushar Patel, M.B., Ch.B. (I ’93, GI ’96), the James C. and Sarah K. Kennedy Dean of Research, Mayo Clinic in Florida and the Alfred D. and Audrey M. Petersen Professor of Cancer Research.

Introducing the 'Taner-Bu-Patel trio'

The Taner-Bu-Patel trio developed a white paper addressing the shortcomings of transplant medicine that became the springboard for the Transforming Transplant initiative across Mayo Clinic — a 2030 strategic priority.

“Transplant depends on organ donors, but most people waiting for an organ will never get one,” says Dr. Taner. “Additionally, transplanted organs don’t last long, and an increasing number of people have organ dysfunction and failure. Quite simply, the supply of transplantable organs hasn’t grown at the same rate as the number of people with organ dysfunction and failure, which means we cannot solve patients’ clinical needs with currently available methods in transplant medicine. The solutions lie in doing things that haven’t been done before."

"We recognized that many good things are happening at Mayo Clinic as well as outside of Mayo Clinic. We could create an ecosystem to bring together Mayo Clinic’s clinical expertise with academia and industry to increase the value of what each does. We believe this is the impetus needed to create transformative solutions for patients who need organ transplants.”

In February, Mayo Clinic signed a research agreement to collaborate on organ transplant innovation with a partner in academia — Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mayo Clinic transplant medicine and regenerative medicine have teamed with Carnegie Mellon’s biomedical engineering group to create solutions to the organ shortage. Carnegie Mellon has well-established strengths in tissue engineering, 3D biofabrication and bioprinting, computational organ modeling and design, extracellular matrix biology and engineering, biomaterials, stem cell engineering, cellular biomechanics, additive manufacturing, robotics and translational organ testing. Carnegie Mellon also is developing a future workforce that can innovate, commercialize and manufacture new organ designs and fabrication methods.

Focus areas to accelerate translational research

The two institutions have formed four work groups to accelerate the translation of biomedical discovery to clinical practice with a single goal — addressing patients’ clinical needs.

Focus areas include:

  1. Organ and tissue biofabrication. Engineer custom tissues and organs with stem cells and scaffolding technologies, 3D printing, and tissue engineering to eliminate the uncertainty of organ donation and long waits.
  2. Restoration of previously unusable donated organs. Restore donated organs and optimize them for best outcomes and decreased discard rates.
  3. Prevention and diagnosis of transplanted organ dysfunction. Prevent graft failure in patients who have received organ transplants, using remote organ monitoring with implantable sensors and therapeutic applications to ensure only one organ transplant per patient.
  4. Prevention and diagnosis of organ dysfunction using artificial intelligence (AI). Prevent organ failure and the need for a transplant through early diagnosis of organ dysfunction and cellular therapy interventions with the use of AI and other data.

“Mayo Clinic is the largest organ transplant provider in the U.S. and a preeminent academic medical center, and Carnegie Mellon is a leader in innovating and applying cutting-edge technologies to real world problems,” says Dr. Taner. “Specifically, Carnegie Mellon is involved in research focused on creating a new generation of longterm replacement organs that are fully biological, artificial or a combination of both.”

Dr. Patel says the research and technological breakthroughs that result from collaborative teams working together will accelerate the progress in addressing challenges that have historically existed for transplantation.

Dr. Bu says that, in addition to accelerating the mission of transforming the practice of medicine through biotherapeutic technologies, these joint efforts will create the next generation workforce that is ready to apply regenerative sciences and engineering to organ transplantation. “Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral trainees from both Mayo Clinic and Carnegie Mellon will be integrated in the clinic, laboratory and classroom to facilitate sharing knowledge and skill sets.”

This story originally appeared in Alumni, a publication of Mayo Clinic Alumni Association.