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 CHICAGO, Nov. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- W. R. Grace & Co. (NYSE: GRA) and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center today announced a joint development program for a liver-assist device at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases held here this week. Under terms of a memorandum of understanding, Cedars-Sinai of Los Angeles will continue research and development, and Grace will focus on commercialization of the first-generation device.
 The liver-assist device is a hollow-fiber membrane cartridge packed with a matrix of pig liver cells. The device is intended for short-term treatment of acute and chronic liver failure. The patient's blood is circulated through the device to temporarily replace vital biological functions lost through liver failure. Similar membranes are used in other health care procedures, such as in kidney dialysis, where Grace is a leading supplier of products and services.
 An estimated 30,000 people, including many patients awaiting liver transplants, die each year in the U.S. from chronic liver disorders. The liver-assist device is intended to serve as a temporary "bridge," stabilizing the patient until a donor liver is available for transplantation. Grace and Cedars-Sinai believe the device could also save the lives of many people afflicted with reversible acute liver failure caused by drug abuse, viral hepatitis or trauma injuries. In the absence of effective treatment, later stages of acute liver failure currently have a mortality rate of about 80 percent.
 Until now, researchers at Cedars-Sinai and Grace have worked independently on the development of a liver-assist device, emphasizing different aspects of the technology. At Cedars-Sinai, the focus has been primarily on the clinical application of technology developed by Dr. Achilles A. Demetriou, director, Liver Support Unit at the Medical Center, and his research team during the past 10 years. So far, this team has treated six patients in the past year at Cedars-Sinai and all six were successfully "bridged" until a human liver became available for transplantation. All patients survived and were discharged from the hospital. Among these patients was a 10-year-old boy who entered the hospital in a stage four coma showing severe encephalopathy.
 The Grace team has placed higher emphasis on the engineering aspects of the device, drawing on the company's extensive experience in hollow- fiber membrane technology, as well as techniques for hepatocyte isolation and characterization developed by Dr. Hugo Jauregui, at Rhode Island Hospital, W. R. Grace's collaborative partner in this technology. The two teams are now joining their technical expertise, and are preparing regulatory documents for the FDA in order to enter clinical trials early next year, both at Cedars-Sinai and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
 Commenting on the program, Dr. Martin B. Sherwin, a Grace corporate vice president and president of Grace's Commercial Development Division, said, "We are very impressed with the clinical results achieved at Cedars-Sinai, and theprospects of collaborating with them are exciting. The two teams complement each other well, and we believe the joint development program will considerably shorten the path to market approval."
 According to Dr. Demetriou, "Combining the technical expertise and resources of Grace with the clinical and research experience of the liver group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center should lead to more rapid development and clinical application of a liver-assist device."
 Grace is the world's largest specialty chemicals company with a leadership position in specialized health care. At Grace, work on this joint development program will be accomplished through its principal operating subsidiary.
 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center enjoys a worldwide reputation for its state-of-the-art patient care, research, medical education and community service.
 -0- 11/5/93
 /CONTACT: Frederick E. Bona, of W. R. Grace, 407-362-2600 or 800-GRACE99; or Ronald L. Wise of Cedars-Sinai, 310-855-4767/

CO: W. R. Grace & Co.; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center ST: Florida, California IN: HEA SU: JVN

AW -- FL007 -- 1151 11/05/93 10:15 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 5, 1993
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