Today, transplants of hearts, lungs, kidneys, and livers are fairly commonplace. Intestinal transplants can help patients suffering from intestinal failure—often resulting from short bowel syndrome or severe cases of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis—but remain rare.
One barrier to intestinal transplants is the difficulty in transporting intestines. The tissue rapidly breaks down, causing the intestine to die before reaching the recipient. As a result, the mortality rate is disproportionally higher for patients awaiting intestine transplants than for those of other organs.
We’ve had a great network of peers and fellow entrepreneurs who’ve really been able to support us, where you feel like this is possible.
A new company, born at Yale, is working to help solve this problem. Called Revai, it was started by Jesse Rich ’16 and Jen Gaze ’16 with Joseph Zinter, associate research scientist and lecturer at the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Dr. John Geibel, director of surgical research at the Yale School of Medicine. The company’s first product, called the Intestinal Preservation Unit (IPU), looks like a bit like R2-D2—were the droid made from an Igloo cooler. Using two pumps controlled by a computer, it forces fluids through the intestinal tract and the intestine’s vasculature to remove waste products and keep the tissue healthy.
Rich and Gaze met Zinter and Geibel through the Office of Cooperative Research, which links scientific advances made at Yale with students looking to help run a startup. Rich handles the business side of Revai, while Gaze focuses on product development and the push to get the IPU approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. With a working prototype and agreements with several organ banks, the team is ready to see how the market responds to the IPU.
“We’ve had a great network of peers and fellow entrepreneurs who’ve really been able to support us, where you feel like this is possible,” says Gaze. “I don’t think I could’ve had this experience at any other place.”