November 8th, 2022
Currently in the US, more than 120,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list; 87% of those are waiting for a kidney. Every single day, 34 people are removed from this list because they died or became too sick to get a transplant.
That statistic became both the mission and the name of a US startup called 34 Lives. CEO Chris Jaynes explains, “I’ve been in the transplant space for many years (Jaynes created the technology currently used in the US to rehabilitate donor lungs) and we are facing a national crisis in the US. 34 Lives was launched because my team and I can’t rest without doing something to reduce that number.”
There’s another fact that haunts Jaynes and his team: Despite the critical shortage of organs, nearly 30% of the 20,000 kidneys recovered for transplant each year are discarded before they reach the recipient. Kidneys are discarded for a number of reasons, but the largest hurdle is the current US practice that kidneys viable for transplant cannot be out of the body longer than 20 hours. And a lot must happen in that short window, including identifying recipients, alerting a transplant team, and getting the organ where it needs to go, usually by air. In short, good, healthy kidneys are never transplanted because the clock runs out.
“We throw away too many kidneys in the US, plain and simple,” says co-founder and CCO Kathleen St. Jean. “And that’s despite the fact that the number of patients on dialysis and on waiting lists continues to strain our healthcare system and devastate families. We need to fight for every patient that is waiting.”
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34 Lives is located on the Purdue Research Park campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. The 34 Lives’ process combines a proprietary end to end service of technology and transportation designed to “reset the clock” for kidneys. Kidneys deemed unusable are flown to a 34 Lives facility, where they are connected to a machine that better preserves the organs. “It is a machine that allows us to bring the kidney back up to normal body temperature. We give it some oxygen and feed it; we give it things like glucose, vitamins and minerals—nutrition that it needs, so it can basically recharge itself,” says Chief Medical Officer Melissa Greenwald.
Another challenge: educating and encouraging healthy citizens to embrace the concept of becoming living donors. To increase awareness in this area, 34 Lives is partnering with software company Unbox, pioneer in closed loop systems. Unbox will leverage their incentives engine to encourage Americans across the country to educate themselves on the facts around organ donation and the benefits for society that come with being an organ donor.
“This is a system of community solidarity that we believe is going to directly contribute to the number of lives saved in the USA ,” says Unbox head of USA Marc FERLET.
Development of this project is set to begin in Indiana with its ultimate aim to make organ donation in general more accessible in the USA not only for kidneys, but also for livers (11.000 Americans on the waiting list) and hearts (3.000 on the list).
Every donor can save up to 8 lives. Together, Unbox’s technology and 34 Lives processes can help to make a significant difference in the lives of those awaiting transplant.