ViaCyte, a beta cell technology company that JDRF has funded since 2004, has some fantastic news. In a press release issued yesterday, the company was awarded a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II Award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to take part in risky and expensive research and development (R&D) efforts, which enables them to compete on the same level as larger companies. In the Phase II effort, ViaCyte, led by the principal investigator Kevin D’Amour, Ph.D., will continue to hone their stem cell-derived beta cells for the treatment of type 1 diabetes (T1D).
JDRF has funded this research on beta cell replacement since 2004, when ViaCyte was called CyThera. Initially, we wanted to look for ways to derive a stem cell line capable of giving rise to several different cell types. One of which, developed by ViaCyte, is termed CyT49. JDRF also funded the preclinical and clinical studies of ViaCyte’s PEC-01™, which is designed to mature into islet tissue in humans, including glucose-responsive insulin-secreting beta cells. JDRF celebrates this new line of funding for ViaCyte, which may lead to commercialization of this innovative technology.
ViaCyte also yesterday issued a news release of more than 200 patents added to their company. With the newly issued patents related to cell replacement therapies, its portfolio includes more than 700 patents worldwide, with protection that will last two decades or more. Patents are an important aspect of any therapeutic development process, as a way to protect the time, effort and financial support that has gone into the technologies.
Why it Matters:
The shortage of donor beta cells and the need for strong immunosuppressive drugs to prevent cell destruction make beta cell transplantation an impractical solution for most people. JDRF is heeding the call, developing beta cell replacement technologies that are capable of restoring glucose control and delivering long-term independence without suppressing the body’s immune system and the ability to fight infections. ViaCyte is moving another step forward in the development of their system, and the technology will hopefully be approved in the coming years.