In the News

MedTech Strategist: The Bioartificial Pancreas

In an in-depth piece on efforts to create an artificial pancreas for the treatment of type 1 diabetes, The MedTech Strategist interviews ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind, Ph.D., and Michael Scott, Ph.D., ViaCyte chief development officer and vice president of our device program.

The article details the history of ViaCyte, born of a merger of three cell therapy companies — Novocell, CyThera, and Bresagen.  Initially, Novocell experimented with implanting micro-encapsulated human islet cells.  Now, ViaCyte is testing the VC-01™ product candidate made up of macro-encapsulated pancreatic progenitor cells, precursor cells that are expected to differentiate into mature cells that produce insulin and other hormones.  The encapsulation device is designed to protect the cells from being destroyed by the immune system and allows the cell therapy to be removed and replaced as necessary.

The ViaCyte VC-01 product is currently being tested in Phase 1/2 human clinical trials.  As the article explains, the initial patient cohort is being enrolled at the University of California, San Diego with the support of the UC San Diego Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center.  After the first cohort is assessed for safety and efficacy of the device, around 35 additional patients will be enrolled at up to five additional study sites in the United States and Canada.

Read more in The MedTech Strategist

BioPharma Reporter: ViaCyte Wins US Patent to Manufacture Human Pancreatic Progenitor Cells

In November 2014, reported that ViaCyte won a U.S. patent to manufacture human pancreatic progenitor cells from endoderm (embryonic stem) cells.  Under this patent, we are also able to develop new ways to produce the cells, known as PEC-01™ cells.  Based on animal experimentation, PEC-01 progenitor cells have the capacity to both self-renew; making more cells, and differentiate into mature, functional pancreatic islet cells.  As the PEC-01 pancreatic progenitor cells represent a cell type that is present in a developing embryo, they are designed by nature to function in a hypoxic environment, promote vascularization, and differentiate into the critical endocrine cells that populate the pancreatic islets.  Thus, ViaCyte believes that the use of PEC-01 cells has advantages over the implantation of more fully differentiated cells such as insulin-producing beta cells; however, the company continues to evaluate other approaches, as indicated by this patent.

PEC-01 cells contained in an Encaptra™ encapsulation device are together known as the VC-01 combination product, a replacement cell therapy currently being tested in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial for safety and efficacy against type 1 diabetes.


CBS 8 News: JDRF Walk – Taking Steps to Cure Type 1 Diabetes

CBS 8 News in San Diego featured a local walk to raise money for JDRF.  The piece mentioned that some of the funds would support ViaCyte and our efforts to develop and test the VC-01™ product, comprised of an implantable device that holds precursor cells that upon implant in a patient are expected to differentiate to become pancreatic islet cells that produce insulin and other blood sugar-regulating hormones.

ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind, Ph.D., also appeared in the TV spot.  He explained that the VC-01 product has the potential of freeing type 1 diabetes patients from constantly worrying about their blood sugar levels.  The goal is for the VC-01 product to become a functional cure, monitoring blood sugar and releasing hormones essentially the same way as islets in a normal healthy pancreas would.

Watch the video from CBS 8 News

A First: ViaCyte’s Type 1 Diabetes Treatments Moves into Humans

In late October 2014, ViaCyte implanted the first VC-01 product candidate in a human patient with type 1 diabetes.  As ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind, Ph.D., put it: “To our knowledge, this is the first time that an embryonic stem cell-derived cell replacement therapy for diabetes has been studied in human subjects.”

The achievement was a culmination of at least 10 years of work by the ViaCyte team, along with collaborators and supporters at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the JDRF.

A number of media outlets and organization covered the historic milestone.  While cautious, each expressed optimism and hope for the therapy, a much-needed advance for a chronic disease that disrupts the lives of millions of people.

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DiabetesCare: Creating a Unique Environment and Transformative Cell Supply to Re-Ignite Insulin Production interviewed ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind, Ph.D.  In the piece, Laikind explains that one advantage of using ViaCyte’s PEC-01™ pancreatic precursor cells to treat type 1 diabetes is that, based on animal experimentation, they can mature into islet cells, which produce insulin and other hormones that regulate blood sugar levels.  PEC-01 cells contained within the Encaptra™ drug delivery system, a semi-permeable encapsulation device, together comprise an experimental treatment known as the VC-01™ combination product.

Another advantage of the VC-01 product, Laikind explains, is the potential that patients with the device will not need immunosuppressive medications.  Thanks to the Encaptra device, the patient’s immune system should be prevented from coming into contact with the PEC-01 cells, keeping them safe from destruction.