Breaking Free from the Daily Burden
JDRF toured ViaCyte’s labs to learn about VC-01TM encapsulated cell therapy
ViaCyte opened its doors last month to a small group of JDRF volunteers and staff to tour the facility. The group learned how ViaCyte has been developing an islet replacement therapy to treat type 1 diabetes (T1D) for the last ten years. “We heard how stem cells become functioning pancreatic cells in ViaCyte’s macroencapsulated drug delivery system and how they can mature into insulin-producing beta cells offering people living with the disease an extended break from daily insulin injections and blood-glucose testing,” said Julia Greenstein, Ph.D., vice president, discovery research at JDRF. To learn more about ViaCyte’s trial of its VC-01 islet cell replacement therapy, which is contained in a semipermeable device called Encaptra®, watch this brief video.
“Twelve patients from two trial sites, one in San Diego, California and one in Alberta, Canada, have received encapsulated pancreatic progenitor cells derived from stem cell therapy. We’re now positioned on the crux of being in a clinical study with the stem cell derived islet replacement being delivered in an encapsulation system, and many consider this to be the Holy Grail of type 1 diabetes therapy,” said Kevin D’Amour, Ph.D., vice president, research and chief scientific officer at ViaCyte. Encaptra acts like a teabag, holding the cell therapy inside.
The cells are completely sealed into the device and, like tea in a teabag, cannot escape, and more importantly, immune cells cannot get inside. The device protects the implanted cells from the immune system, overcoming an obstacle that held back other encapsulation designs.
“The macroencapsulation device is implanted under the skin through an outpatient surgical procedure and the therapy is designed to last at least a year, possibly up to five years, before needing to be replaced,” Dr. D’Amour said.
As far as next steps, ViaCyte plans to use these initial results to optimize the therapy before moving to more patients. In the next phase of the trial, ViaCyte would increase the dose of cells being used and would be looking for therapeutic efficacy. “If all goes according to plan, people living with T1D get to throw away their needles and forget about the daily burdens of managing their blood sugar,” according to Dr. D’Amour.
Why It Matters:
With JDRF’s support, ViaCyte’s researchers can help more people with type 1 diabetes lead a more normal life filled with less worry and less time managing their disease. Its VC-01 islet cell replacement therapy may also offer reduction in serious chronic health conditions caused by swings in blood glucose.