Blood storage tech developer Hemanext adds $15M to VC stores as it preps for FDA submission
by Andrea Park
Blood storage hasn’t changed much in the last half-century. Donated red blood cells are stored in plasticized PVC bags that are kept in blood bank refrigerators for up to six weeks and used on a first-in, first-out basis, despite some evidence suggesting that stored red blood cells can become less effective over time.
Hemanext, however, is hoping to give this practice a transfusion of its own—but of innovation, rather than blood cells. The Hemanext One system processes and stores red blood cells at a low oxygen saturation level, inducing hypoxia to preserve the blood’s quality by reducing potential oxidation.
The system is well on its way to becoming the new standard for blood storage. Hemanext’s technology was given a CE mark in April, allowing it to be sold in Europe. Next up, the Massachusetts startup is already preparing its submission for FDA authorization, which it’s aiming to send in by the end of this year.
Supporting those regulatory efforts and Hemanext’s plans to continue developing its blood storage tech is a new series A funding round, which recently added $15 million to the company’s coffers. The financing came from a range of global family offices, private equity firms, investment banks and law firms.
And Hemanext may not be quite finished with its series A: The company said it could end up accepting up to another $15 million in the round. In the meantime, it’s already laying the groundwork for a series B, which it plans to open up to investors in the first half of next year.
In total, Hemanext has already raked in more than $100 million since it was founded more than a decade ago, in 2008. For most of that time, up until 2017, it was known as New Health Sciences and collected funding from the National Institutes of Health and other investors to study the benefits of using hypoxic red blood cells in transfusions and designing a system that could minimize oxygenation of the stored cells.
“Hemanext is leading a groundbreaking initiative aiming to improve the quality of red blood cells, a critical element of modern medicine and one of the largest markets in healthcare,” said CEO Martin Cannon. “We are gratified by the tremendous response we have received from leading private investors in the U.S. and Europe who believe in the potential of our cutting-edge technology, which has the potential to improve outcomes for millions of patients worldwide.”
The Hemanext One system comprises two components. The blood cells are first placed in an oxygen reduction bag. Its double-walled mechanism includes a sorbent between the inner and outer walls to absorb much of the oxygen out of the red blood cells in the inner bag.
They’re then transferred to a smaller, transfusion-unit-sized Hemanext storage bag, which has a similar makeup to the processing bag, preventing oxygen from getting into the bag while drawing out as much oxygen as possible from the blood cells stored inside.
A study of the technology published last year found that blood stored in the Hemanext One’s hypoxic conditions resulted in better post-transfusion outcomes than red blood cells stored in standard bags. In the study, 12 healthy patients each donated two units of blood, with one stored using each method. While in storage, the hypoxic units were found to score significantly better than the others on several quality indicators, including improved energy and redox metabolism.
Because of that, the researchers concluded, when the blood cells were returned to their original owners, those stored in hypoxia experienced better post-transfusion recovery than those in the other group. However, both storage methods resulted in similar levels of hemolysis, or the breakdown of red blood cells.