Routine pig-human organ transplants are years away, but recent scientific advances are breaking down barriers that frustrated prior attempts to use pigs as a ready supply of replacement parts for sick or injured people, making it an attractive new market. “Our bread and butter has always been the bacon, sausage, fresh pork – very much a food-focused operation,” Courtney Stanton, vice president of Smithfield’s new bioscience unit, told Reuters in an exclusive interview. We want to signal to the medical device and science communities that this is an area we’re focused on – that we’re not strictly packers,” she said. Smithfield, the $14 billion subsidiary of Chinas WH Group, in its first move has joined a public-private tissue engineering consortium funded by an $80 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. Smithfield is the only pork producer, joining health-care companies including Abbott Laboratories, Medtronic and United Therapeutics Corp. Transplants are used for people diagnosed with organ failure and who have no other treatment options. Transplants from animals could help close a critical gap to help those in need. The United Network for Organ Sharing estimates that, on average, 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.
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