Type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5 percent of diabetes and affects about 20 million people worldwide. The incidence is rising by close to 3 percent per year worldwide, and in USA, the number of type 1 diabetes patients is expected to triple by 2050. Effective therapies are available, but require balancing insulin dosing, diet and exercise along with frequent feedback from blood glucose monitoring. This can be both challenging and painful, complicating adherence and health outcomes.
The San-Diego-based company ViaCyte is developing a stem-cell derived treatment for diabetes, along with a new device to deliver the therapy. Their lead product, VC-01, consist of a immune-protected encapsulated medical device, that is filled with stem cells that has been engineered to develop into fully differentiated pancreatic cells. The device is implanted under skin of the patient through a simple surgical procedure, where the mature pancreatic cells can synthesize and secrete insulin to regulate blood glucose. The semi-permeable barrier of the device enable the insulin to freely pass into the bloodstream, while protecting the implanted cells from attack by the immune system. The treatment can be eliminated by removing the device through a minimally invasive procedure.
The efficacy of VC-01 has been well demonstrated in several preclinical studies, and has consistently been capable of controlling blood glucose in mice. Preliminary results from its phase 1 trial show that the engineered stem cells can grow into insulin-producing beta cell 12 weeks after the device has been implanted. The results from the study, which began at UC San Diego in late 2014, serve as a proof of concept that the results seen in the preclinical studies can be translated into humans.
The innovative new treatment could transform the lives of patients with diabetes. With the use of the minimally invasive implant, patients could be able to control blood glucose levels, eliminating the need for insulin injection. This could significantly reduce hypoglycemia and the serious health outcomes caused by swings in blood glucose. Most importantly, it significantly improves quality of life for the millions of people living with diabetes, making it easier to manage their disease on an everyday basis, potentially saving millions. Ultimately, this technology could change how we perceive diabetes.
ViaCyte recently acquired the assets and IP of its rival BetaLogics, a deal that will see BetaLogics’ key scientists being invited to work for ViaCyte on Janssen’s payroll for two years. Backers of the San Diego company include Janssen/Johnson& Johnson, The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.