Liquid biopsy firm Karius and biotechnology company eGenesis have agreed to develop an infectious disease diagnostics platform for xenotransplantation in patients who require organ transplants.

Under the partnership, the US-based Karius will use its platform to drive the identification and quantification of pathogens that can occur in porcine organ donors.

Initially, Karius and eGenesis will develop diagnostics for xenotransplantation from porcine to primates and eventually to humans.

Karius’ expanded platform, which can detect microbial cell-free DNA, will support the monitoring and diagnosis of possible infection in both the porcine organ donor and recipient. The diagnosis will be conducted before as well as after the transplant.

The work on the development of this expanded platform is expected to be completed by early next year.

eGenesis CEO Michael Curtis said: “While we are taking numerous measures to ensure our porcine donors are free from infectious agents, the ability to broadly monitor for infection transmission between species is important for ensuring the safety of xenotransplantation.

“With our gene-editing technology, we have an unprecedented ability to engineer human compatible organs to address the organ shortage, and this partnership is a key step in our goal to make xenotransplantation safe.”

The approach to xenotransplantation of eGenesis is said to minimise the risk associated with xenogeneic disease transfer.

The company’s proprietary eGenesis Genome Engineering and Production (EGEN) platform uses gene editing technologies to deactivate all detectable copies of endogenous retrovirus sequences within the porcine genome.

This method stops the virus from being passed from the organ donor to the recipient.

Karius chief medical officer Brad Perkins said: “Patients who receive solid organ transplants regardless of source are at high risk for varied causes of infection, and can particularly benefit from Karius’ unbiased, rapid, and non-invasive detection of pathogens.”

Last year, Karius’ technology could observe microbial cell-free DNA from a porcine pathogen in a patient who underwent the first xenotransplant, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The pathogen detection method used by Karius’ technology is said to provide a flexible and adaptable platform that can be altered to include new diseases with both human and pig origins.

In June last year, Karius partnered with Capstone Health Alliance to expand access to its Karius Test for infectious diseases.