Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter is teaming up with a unit of United Therapeutics Corp. to develop pig lungs that have been genetically altered to be compatible with humans — a feat that, if successful, could address the urgent need for transplant organs for people with end-stage lung disease.

Venter's privately held company Synthetic Genomics Inc. on Tuesday said it has entered a multiyear deal with United Therapeutics' Lung Biotechnology Inc. to develop the so-called humanized pig organs.

The venture is intended to advance United Therapeutics' efforts to develop replacement organs grown in genetically altered pigs. According to the companies, about 400,000 people in the United States die each year from various forms of lung disease, and only 2,000 people are saved with a lung transplant.