The University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Transplant Institute has been awarded a five-year, $19.5 million grant from the biotechnology company United Therapeutics Corporation to launch a Xenotransplantation Program, UAB reported on its website. Both groups said they hope the research will lead to genetically modified kidney transplants from pig models to humans by 2021.

“This very generous gift from United Therapeutics will enable us to establish a unique research arm for the School of Medicine that gives us the chance to be the first in the world to transplant genetically engineered kidneys from nonhuman organs into human recipients within the next five years,” said Selwyn Vickers, MD, senior vice president and dean of UAB’s School of Medicine.

UAB scientists believe whole organ transplants from genetically modified pigs are possible in the near future if immunological and physiological barriers can be overcome, UAB reported on its website.