Emory Transplant Center Awarded Grant to Improve Post-Transplant Regimens

The National Institute of Health awarded Emory Transplant Center researchers $12.6 million over five years to investigate improved post-transplant drug regimens for organ transplant recipients.

The Emory Transplant Center research team is led by Professor of Surgery, Christian Larsen, MD, Dphil, and includes Mandy Ford, PhD and Andrew Adams, MD, PhD. Leslie Kean, MD, PhD from Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington is also part of the investigative team. The research is a continuation of Larsen’s previous work, undertaken with Emory Transplant Center Executive Director and Professor of Surgery, Thomas Pearson, MD, Dphil, on costimulation blockers – drugs to prevent immune rejection of transplanted organs.

Past Emory Transplant Center Research

Together with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Larsen and Pearson developed a costimulation blocker called belatacept. It was shown in a multi-center clinical trial to improve graft survival and mortality rates in kidney transplant patients, in comparison with calcineurin inhibitors, the standard of care in the past. However, in these studies, acute rejection rates were higher with those receiving belatacept than with calcineurin inhibitors.

Improving Post-Transplant Drug Regimens

The team’s recent research has identified biomarkers on immune cells that may predict the likelihood of costimulation blocker-resistant graft rejection. The current project will examine these biomarkers’ predictive value in non-human primate models of organ transplant, in cooperation with Yerkes National Primate Research Center. The Emory Transplant Center research team will also investigate pathways for targeting immune cells that are resistant to costimulation blockers, as well as cellular therapies and strategies for preserving protective immunity against viruses in organ transplant recipients.

“This research is aimed at extending the benefits of costimulation blocker-based regimens to a larger group of transplant patients, and helping them to have longer, healthier lives,” Larsen says.

Emory Transplant Center

As one of the top 10 transplant centers in the nation, Emory Transplant Center is at the forefront of clinical excellence and pioneering new transplant therapies. The center offers cutting-edge technology and superior outcomes in heart, kidney, liver, lung, and pancreas transplant surgeries. Emory Transplant Center, a part of Emory Healthcare, has performed more than 8,000 transplants to date and all solid organ programs meet Transplant Centers of Excellence quality outcome criteria. The center’s core mission is to provide exceptional care for patients in need of organ transplants while offering access to the latest transplant technology.

To learn more about Emory Transplant Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant.