By Conor Bryant
The U.S. government, led by the Department of Defense, announced plans on Monday to invest $200 million to help shorten the waiting list for organ transplants.
It is designed to support technologies aimed at repairing and replacing cells and tissues, says Jeff Zients, director of the White House National Economic Council. $160 million in public-private investment will go to a new Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Manufacturing Innovation Institute to aid in developing next-generation manufacturing techniques for cell therapies. Another $7 million will go towards awards for small businesses working to advance the science of tissue preservation.
Over 120,000 people in the U.S. are on a donor waiting list, with 80% of those waiting for a kidney. The number of organ transplants last year was around 30,000, the most annual transplants ever. End stage kidney failure cost Medicare $34 billion a year, more than 7% of the total budget.
The incoming president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Dr. Timothy Pruett, says cutting wait times for organ transplants is a multi-faceted challenge, and while the efforts from the White House are a great start, sustained additional efforts are required.
The sharing of information regarding donors has also seen an increase in attention. Walter Reed National Military Center announced a pilot to help patients find hard to match kidneys; and more than 30 transplant centers said they would share data for hard to match kidney patients. Facebook, Tinder and Twitter are also developing new tools to increase donor registration options.
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