JDRF announced it will support a pioneering diabetes research program that is developing a first-of-its-kind cell therapy for type 1 diabetes and other forms of insulin-dependent diabetes. The therapy is a combination product that packages immature cells made from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that over time develop into mature pancreatic hormone producing cells (pro-islet) including insulin-producing cells. The research is an important step toward producing an unlimited source of insulin-producing cells that could serve as replacements for those destroyed in both type 1 diabetes and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes. The diabetes program is being funded by JDRF, the largest charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research in the world, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and ViaCyte, a San Diego, California-based biotechnology company focused on diabetes.
Ongoing research of this combination product in rodents has demonstrated that within two to three months of implantation, the immature human pancreatic hormone cells mature into functional pancreatic hormone producing cells, including functional insulin producing cells that can regulate blood glucose.
Existing cell therapies such as islet and pancreas transplantation have the potential to cure type 1 diabetes by restoring normal islet function and normalizing blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. Because the number of cadaveric human donors for pancreatic islets is limited, ViaCyte’s program will provide a replenishable supply of functional insulin-producing cells. Furthermore, packaging the cells in a device (“encapsulation”) creates a physical barrier around the cells and has the potential to protect the transplanted cells from immune rejection, and may eliminate the need for chronic immunosuppressive drugs. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to help patients with type 1 diabetes restore their ability to regulate blood glucose, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for constant self-management and administration of insulin.
The three-year series of preclinical studies being co-funded by JDRF will help ViaCyte prepare the information necessary to apply for regulatory approvals to study the system for safety and efficacy in people with type 1 diabetes.
ViaCyte is a preclinical cell therapy company focused on diabetes. The Company’s technology is based on pancreatic beta cell progenitors derived from human pluripotent stem cells. These cells are implanted using a durable and retrievable encapsulation device. Once implanted and matured, these cells secrete insulin in response to blood glucose levels. ViaCyte’s goal is long term insulin independence without immune suppression, and without hypoglycemia and other diabetes-related complications. ViaCyte is a private company headquartered in San Diego, California with additional operations in Athens, Georgia. The Company is funded in part by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.