Improving the success rate of organ transplants thanks to a marine worm? As unlikely as it seems, Hemarina, a biopharmaceutical spin-off of the CNRS and the Sorbonne University, based in Morlaix (Northern Finistère) makes it possible. Its CEO, Franck Zal, doctor in Marine Biology, found out that the haemoglobin of lugworm Arenicola marina has unique properties. It is 250 times smaller than human red-blood cells yet it’s able to bind 40 times more oxygen than them, is compatible with all blood group, it creates no vasoconstrictor and hypertensive effects. It can be used for numerous therapeutic and industrial applications: organ preservation, cell culture and reproduction, oxygen carrying haemoglobin and wound healing.
For instance, HEMO2Life, Hemarina’s revolutionary additive for organ transplant, allows a graft to be oxygenated physiologically, reducing the risk of rejection and extending its storage time. This means a medical team could have an additional 48 hours before proceeding with a lung transplant – instead of 6 hours today.
Clinical tests took place in France and Canada between 2016 and 2018: 61 patients have been successfully transplanted with the help of HEMO2Life. The product’s commercial launch is imminent. Hemarina raised €23m ($25,3m) since its foundation in 2007 and is now fully operational. Its 13-hectare Marine Farm, located on the island of Noirmoitiers, can produce up to 30 tons of marine worms per year. Its R&D developments are protected by 13 different patent applications. Most importantly, Hemarina’s 40 employees are ready to push the boundaries of biotechnology for the benefit of health.