NEW YORK, Dec. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- JDRF announced today its support of a pioneering diabetes research program that is developing a first-of-its-kind cell therapy for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and other forms of insulin-dependent diabetes. The therapy is a combination product that packages immature cells made from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) that over time develop into mature pancreatic hormone producing cells (pro-islet) including insulin-producing cells. The research is an important step toward producing an unlimited source of insulin-producing cells that could serve as replacements for those destroyed in both T1D and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes. The diabetes program is being funded by JDRF, the largest charitable funder of T1D research in the world, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and ViaCyte, a San Diego, California-based biotechnology company focused on diabetes.
Ongoing research of this combination product in rodents has demonstrated that within two to three months of implantation, the immature human pancreatic hormone cells mature into functional pancreatic hormone producing cells, including functional insulin producing cells that can regulate blood glucose.
Existing cell therapies such as islet and pancreas transplantation have the potential to cure T1D by restoring normal islet function and normalizing blood glucose levels in people with T1D. Because the number of cadaveric human donors for pancreatic islets is limited, ViaCyte's program will provide a replenishable supply of functional insulin-producing cells. Furthermore, packaging the cells in a device ("encapsulation") creates a physical barrier around the cells and has the potential to protect the transplanted cells from immune rejection, and may eliminate the need for chronic immunosuppressive drugs. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to help patients with T1D restore their ability to regulate blood glucose, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for constant self-management and administration of insulin.
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.
"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."
In T1D, a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. People with T1D need to test their blood sugar and give themselves insulin (with injections or an insulin pump) multiple times every day, and carefully balance insulin doses with eating and daily activities throughout the day and night. However, insulin is not a cure for diabetes, and even with that intensive care, a significant portion of the day is still spent with either high or low blood sugar, placing people with T1D at risk for devastating complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, and amputation.
JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF is to improve the lives of every person affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal. Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.6 billion to T1D research. More than 80 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education. Past JDRF research efforts have helped to significantly improve the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered. For more information, please visit www.jdrf.org.
ViaCyte is a preclinical cell therapy company focused on diabetes. The Company's technology is based on pancreatic beta cell progenitors derived from human pluripotent stem cells. These cells are implanted using a durable and retrievable encapsulation device. Once implanted and matured, these cells secrete insulin in response to blood glucose levels. ViaCyte's goal is long term insulin independence without immune suppression, and without hypoglycemia and other diabetes-related complications. ViaCyte is a private company headquartered in San Diego, California with additional operations in Athens, Georgia. The Company is funded in part by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
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