Smithfield Bioscience and UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science partner to explore regenerative medicine.
SMITHFIELD, Va.- Smithfield Foods Inc. and the Univ. of Virginia (UVA) School of Engineering and Applied Science have partnered on a research project to explore and advance regenerative medicine technologies that leverage porcine bioproducts. The collaboration between UVA and the strategic business platform within Smithfield Foods, Smithfield Bioscience, will focus on a range of biotechnology solutions in the areas of human therapeutics, tissue fabrication and regenerative medicine.

"Nearly 1 million Americans suffer from injuries, disorders and diseases that result in a significant amount of skeletal muscle loss each year," said Courtney Stanton, vice president of Smithfield Bioscience and Renewable Bioproducts. "From our wounded veterans to babies born with a cleft lip to those who have suffered traumatic accidents, there is an overwhelming need for bioengineered skeletal muscle. This research and partnership with UVA is a promising step toward meeting this demand."

The collaborative research will work to develop and test a tissue-engineering process for skeletal muscle repair and regeneration using porcine-derived materials. The advantage of the porcine materials is they can be muscle-specific prior to implantation and more easily accepted by the human body. Researchers will also conduct proof-of-concept studies, which are a critical step in pursuing clinical trials.

"The research partnership between UVA and Smithfield Bioscience represents engineering at its best, as this partnership seeks to leverage the strengths of both organizations to ultimately use engineered cells and tissues as products that will benefit patients," said Frederick H. Epstein, professor and chair of UVA's Biomedical Engineering Dept. and professor of radiology and medical imaging.

The Smithfield and UVA partnership is part of a large consortium consisting of roughly 100 organizations including UVA and Smithfield. These organizations are coming together under the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, which works to accelerate regenerative tissue research and create state-of-the-art manufacturing innovations in biomaterial and cell processing for critical Dept. of Defense and civilian needs.

George Christ, a UVA professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedic surgery, Mary Muilenburg Stamp professor of orthopedic research in the school of medicine, and co-director of UVA's new $3 million Center for Advanced Biomanufacturing, explained, "There's been a tremendous amount of money and time spent on research and development in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, but the ability to manufacture the cells, tissues, and biomaterials needed on a scale large enough to truly transform patient care doesn't exist. By partnering with Smithfield Bioscience and leveraging porcine bioproducts, we are hoping to help change all of that."

"We are hopeful that this research collaboration will reveal new technologies for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, which would revolutionize the treatments physicians provide to patients with injuries involving large-scale muscle loss associated with upper and lower extremity trauma," said Dr. A. Bobby Chhabra, Chair of Orthopedic Surgery for UVA Health System.