JDRF, a global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) agreed to provide additional funding for the development of a novel stem cell therapy by ViaCyte. JDRF and CIRM will each contribute $3 million to further advance the project.

ViaCyte’s product is designed to deliver to patients immature pancreatic progenitor cells developed from a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line; over time, these cells develop into mature pancreatic cells that are capable of producing pancreatic hormones, including insulin. These cells are encapsulated in a device that isolates the cells from the host but allows free flow of oxygen, nutrients, and other factors, so that the cells can respond to blood glucose and release hormones like insulin while being protected from the patient’s immune system. The combination product is designated VC-01. The benefit of such a breakthrough would be the ability to provide a patient with a new source of insulin-producing cells to replace those destroyed by the autoimmune response that is a hallmark of T1D, according to Julia Greenstein, Ph.D., JDRF’s vp of cure therapies.

“The ability to encapsulate and thereby protect implanted insulin-producing cells has been a focus for JDRF because of its potential to solve multiple problems at once. ViaCyte is currently at the forefront of developing this technology, making this a very attractive research opportunity for us,” she said

The contributions by JDRF and CIRM are intended to move ViaCyte’s combination of stem cell-derived pancreatic progenitors and encapsulation device (VC-01 combination product) to approval by the FDA for proof-of-concept human clinical trials. To date, VC-01 has been shown to be effective in controlling blood glucose in multiple preclinical models, and clinical trials to initially investigate the safety and efficacy in patients with T1D are expected to be initiated next year, noted Paul Laikind, Ph.D., ViaCyte’s CEO and president.

“CIRM and JDRF are valuable partners as we pursue this potentially transformative new approach to controlling insulin-dependent diabetes. While we appreciate their financial awards, we have also benefited from the valuable technical support and advocacy they provide to our program. With their help we will soon determine if the promising results we have demonstrated in preclinical studies translate to patients. If so, VC-01 could essentially represent a cure for type 1 diabetes and an important therapy for patients with insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes,” he said.

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