Today a CIRM-funded disease team working toward a therapy for type 1 diabetes received additional support and endorsement from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The project, led by San Diego-based Viacyte, received almost $20 million in funding from CIRM in October 2009.
The goal of the ViaCyte project is to mature embryonic stem cells into a type of cell that normally produces insulin in the pancreas. These are the cells that are destroyed in people with diabetes. The group plans to put those cells in a device that protects them from the immune system, then implant that device in the body where it is hoped that the cells will mature to produce insulin in response to blood sugar. The cells are effective in animal models, the company says.
According to a press release from JDRF:
The three-year series of preclinical studies being co-funded by JDRF will help ViaCyte prepare the information necessary to apply for regulatory approvals to study the system for safety and efficacy in people with T1D.
The release goes on to quote leaders from JDRF, ViaCyte and CIRM:
“Encapsulation research is one of JDRF’s priorities because of the profound possibilities it holds for many avenues of research for type 1 diabetes,” said Julia Greenstein, JDRF’s assistant vice president for Cure therapies. “We’re excited about partnering with ViaCyte to explore the use of encapsulated stem cell-based replacement. This type of innovative therapy could revolutionize the way people live with type 1 diabetes, and may also reduce the risk of dangerous complications that often result from extreme high and low blood sugars.”
“We are thrilled to be partnering with JDRF, the leader in the field of support for diabetes research,” said Allan Robins, Ph.D., acting CEO from ViaCyte. “ViaCyte’s goal is to create a product that will free people with diabetes from insulin dependence for the long-term, and we believe this therapy has the potential to transform lives.”
“At CIRM, we have long had the goal of leveraging the financial and intellectual capital of California with other funds and talent from around the state and around the world, and the decision by JDRF is a clear example of how these partnerships can enhance the opportunities to get to the end goal of a therapy for patients,” said Alan Trounson, president of CIRM. “We are proud to have JDRF as a partner in working with ViaCyte and their scientific team to bring a potentially life-changing therapy for people with diabetes to the clinic.
This video features ViaCyte’s Eugene Brandon discussing the company’s approach: