Segway Inventor’s New Project: Lab-Grown Human Organs

When the FDA approves lab-grown human organs for patients the Segway’s inventor, Dean Kamen, wants to be ready to mass-produce them.

In December 2016, at the age of 65, Dean Kamen and his collaborators won an $80 million Department of Defense contract to manufacture replacement tissue and organs on-demand. Wounded soldiers need body parts, the DoD explained at the time. And so do Americans on organ transplant waiting lists — 111,000 people, at last count.

Kamen used the grant to help start the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), a nonprofit consortium of some 170 companies, research institutions, and organizations from across the country that pay an annual fee, provide equipment, or contribute in other ways in exchange for sharing research and resources. Including the DoD grant, the project is funded to the tune of about $300 million.

Plenty of scientists are trying to grow organs. But what sets Kamen’s group apart is that he’s working a step ahead: He’s making the tools and machinery to mass-produce those organs, if and when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves them for patients. He wants to pump out hearts and kidneys much the same way factories produce smartphones: in high-tech assembly lines.

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