|Cross-sectional schematic illustration of ViaCyte device|
It’s not often a promising new approach to one of the biggest health problems in the US today gets called “the holy grail” of treatments, but that’s what one independent expert called the type 1 diabetes therapy that ViaCyte is developing.
So, it’s no wonder that ViaCyte’s therapy is not only generating interest, it’s also generating capital. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has just announced that it is providing an additional $3 million in funding to help ViaCyte move the treatment out of the lab and into clinical trials in people.
This matches the $3m in supplementary funding that our Governing Board approved for the company back in December of last year. Like JDRF we have been funding ViaCyte’s product for several years, through several stages of development. The reason why we are both willing to continue to fund what is, for now at least, called VC-01 is because it’s such a promising therapy.
VC-01 is a small implantable device that contains cells, derived from a human embryonic stem cell line, that can generate insulin. The genius of the device is that it allows the cells to monitor the body’s blood glucose levels and so make insulin when it’s needed, but because it is in a capsule it is isolated from the body’s immune system, which would otherwise try to destroy it.
In a news release announcing their additional funding Julia Greenstein, PhD, JDRF’s vice president of cure therapies called the research “very promising.”
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.
It’s not just patients with type 1 diabetes who could benefit from this therapy. Patients with insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes could as well. Diabetes costs California a whopping $24 billion every year, so being able to cut that even by a small amount would be hugely important.
Here’s our video about this CIRM and JDRF supported Viacyte project: