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.