Eli Lilly, a company JDRF has collaborated with for nearly 50 years, announced today that it will partner with Sigilon Therapeutics to develop encapsulated cell therapies for type 1 diabetes (T1D), using technology that began with JDRF funding. If successful, the Lilly-Sigilon partnership will be an extraordinary accomplishment for the entire T1D community, allowing people with T1D to become insulin independent for potentially a lifetime. In other words, approaching a cure for T1D.
Sigilon has a new system—Afibromer™ technology platform—that allows the company to build a cell therapy with broad potential: cell therapies that do not require immunosuppression. Today, an islet transplantation is restricted to a subpopulation of people living with T1D and requires long-term immunosuppressive treatments, which increase the risk of infection, cancer and heart disease, to name a few of the side effects. A goal—of the T1D field and JDRF—is to find a way to transplant these cells without the use of immunosuppressive drugs. That’s where encapsulation and years of JDRF-funded science comes in.
Encapsulation technologies can “shield” beta cells or islets in a way that they can produce insulin but are protected from immune attack. At JDRF, we have been funding encapsulation research for more than 10 years, and started the Encapsulation Consortium in 2013 to make headway toward this goal. Among the first efforts that JDRF began were several grants to Daniel Anderson, Ph.D., and Robert Langer, Sc.D., to develop a delivery system for islet encapsulation, which eventually led to the discovery of Afibromer™ materials.
“At JDRF, we’re committed to driving scientific progress that delivers new treatments and therapies to make day-to-day life with type 1 diabetes (T1D) easier, safer and healthier,” says JDRF Chief Mission Officer Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D. “For the past decade, we’ve supported research, including significant support to Drs. Anderson and Langer, to make beta cell replacement a widely available option for people with T1D. We’re excited Eli Lilly and Sigilon Therapeutics are developing new encapsulated cell therapies with potential to restore insulin production and look forward to the benefits their collaboration will have to the diabetes community.”
Learn more about JDRF’s work to advance beta cell replacement therapies here.