The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine have announced a total of $6 million in additional funding to advance the development of a novel stem cell therapy by San Diego-based ViaCyte, Inc.
The funds will support efforts to obtain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct proof-of-concept human clinical trials of a ViaCyte product designed to deliver stem cell-derived pancreatic progenitor cells, which eventually develop into mature cells capable of producing pancreatic hormones, including insulin. Encapsulated in a device that isolates them from the host but allows oxygen, nutrients, and other factors to flow freely, the cells are able to respond to blood glucose and release insulin while remaining protected from the patient's immune system. Such a breakthrough could provide a patient with a new source of insulin-producing cells to replace those destroyed by the autoimmune response that is a characteristic of type 1 diabetes (T1D). The product has been shown to be effective in controlling blood glucose in multiple pre-clinical models, and clinical trials to investigate the safety and efficacy in patients with T1D are expected to begin next year.
"The research being performed by ViaCyte is very promising," said Julia Greenstein, JDRF's vice president of cure therapies. "The ability to encapsulate and thereby protect implanted insulin-producing cells has been a focus for JDRF because of its potential to solve multiple problems at once. ViaCyte is currently at the forefront of developing this technology, making this a very attractive research opportunity for us."
"With [JDRF's and CIRM's] help we will soon determine if the promising results we have demonstrated in preclinical studies translate to patients," said ViaCyte president and CEO Paul Laikind. "If so, VC-01 could essentially represent a cure for type 1 diabetes and an important therapy for patients with insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes."