ViaCyte was awarded a $10.1 million Strategic Partnership Award from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to support IND filing and initial clinical evaluation of an implantable cell therapy for treating diabetes. Clinical trials are projected to start in 2014.

The product, VC-01, comprises stem cell-derived pancreatic beta cell progenitors housed in a macroencapsulation device, which when implanted under the skin of a diabetes patient is expected to produce insulin and other factors that control the disease. ViaCyte has previously a number of CIRM grants to support VC-01, including a $20 million Disease Team Award in 2009.

The firm says its Encaptra® drug delivery system that houses the beta cell progenitors is retrievable, non-biodegradable and vascularizing, and enables implanted pancreatic progenitor cells to survive and differentiate into functioning islet cells. Manufactured from FDA compliant implant grade materials the device is designed to eliminate the need for continuous immunosuppressant drugs, and optimized to allow the release of in response to the recipient’s blood glucose.

ViaCyte’s current incarnation of VC-01 is based on differentiated human embryonic stem cells, (hESCs). The firm has, however, also established collaborations with experts in the field of induced pluripotent stem cells, and is working on applying its differentiation technology to iPSCs as an alternative to hESCs.

Stem cell therapeutics firm bluebird bio today separately announced winning a $9.3 million Strategic Partnership Award by CIRM, to support further development of a stem cell-based gene therapy for treating β-thalassemia. 

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