In the News

MIT Technology Review: A Pancreas in a Capsule

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.

Read more in MIT Technology Review

The Pharmaceutical Journal: Making Beta Cells in the Lab

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.

Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal

San Diego Reader: Type 1 terror

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.

Read more in the San Diego Reader

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, BioPharma-Reporter.com 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.

Read more on BioPharma-Reporter.com