The MIT Technology Review published a piece expressing optimism about our “cells in a sack” approach to treating type 1 diabetes. ViaCyte is mentioned as only the third company in the United States to test an embryonic stem cell-based therapy in humans.
As the article describes, in October 2014 we began a Phase 1/2 clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of our VC-01™ candidate product — a semi-permeable pouch containing pancreatic precursor cells that are designed to differentiate upon implant to produce blood sugar-regulating hormones. In this way, the VC-01 product could essentially act as a replacement endocrine pancreas.
This piece also emphasizes the seriousness of type 1 diabetes and how difficult it is for children — patients are required to prick their fingers, inject themselves with insulin, and monitor what they eat every day in order to regulate their blood sugar. Improperly managed blood sugar can lead to kidney damage and blindness.
The Pharmaceutical Journal interviewed Kevin D’Amour, ViaCyte’s chief scientific officer, in an article that describes several current approaches to producing beta cells as a treatment for type 1 diabetes.
The piece describes our 2008 study in which we introduced pancreatic progenitor cells derived from embryonic stem cells in a mouse model. The cells, implanted at three different sites, differentiated into functional human islet tissue and produced insulin in 92 percent of the mice. In the years since, as the article explains, we went on to develop the Encaptra™ pouch to hold the pancreatic precursor cells, protecting them from autoimmune destruction. We also developed methods for scale-up production of the cells, and now the VC-01TM product candidate (cells plus device) is in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in humans.
D’Amour is quoted saying that he envisions that ViaCyte’s type 1 diabetes product will one day be available from hospitals — implanted by endocrinologists in a non-invasive procedure.
An in-depth article in the San Diego Reader details the difficulties faced by families with a child who has type 1 diabetes — pricking fingers to test blood sugar levels every three hours, injecting insulin, monitoring glucose intake and worrying constantly. Many of these families are strong advocates for type 1 diabetes research. Looking ahead at potential therapies in development, the executive director of the San Diego chapter of JDRF likened our candidate encapsulation device, Encaptra™, which holds pancreatic precursor cells, to a “shark-proof cages used by underwater photographers.”
From within Encaptra, the precursor cells are expected to differentiate upon implantation, producing mature pancreatic cells that produce insulin and other blood sugar-regulating hormones. Encaptra is designed to allow the hormones to escape, and the body’s immune system can’t get in to destroy the cells.