ViaCyte bags $10M for diabetes cell therapies

ViaCyte picked up $10 million to fund the clinical development of its stem cell-derived treatment for patients who have Type 1 diabetes and are at risk of complications.

Specifically, the funds will be used to develop the company’s PEC-Direct candidate, which treats diabetes by administering stem cell-derived pancreatic progenitor cells in an implantable device, according to a statement. These cells are designed to mature into human pancreatic cells, including insulin-secreting beta cells.

This treatment is intended for high-risk Type 1 diabetes patients—those who experience severe hypoglycemic episodes, who have “brittle diabetes,” where blood glucose levels swing up and down, or who are less able or unable to spot symptoms of low blood sugar. ViaCyte plans to deliver the therapy alongside immune-suppressive drugs to prevent rejection.

“High‐risk type 1 diabetes has been successfully treated with cadaver islet transplants, but adoption of islet transplants has been limited, due in part to the insufficient supply of donor material,” said ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind, in a statement. “Because ViaCyte’s PEC‐01 cells are manufactured from pluripotent cells with unlimited proliferative potential, they can be made in vast numbers and therefore may be capable of solving the cell supply issue.”

The new funding will also support the development of ViaCyte’s other candidate, the PEC-Encap, for patients who require insulin to control their diabetes. It comprises the Encaptra Cell Delivery System and the company’s pancreatic progenitor cells. In addition to delivering the cells, the Encaptra device also protects the cells from the host immune response, cutting the need for immunosuppression.

The funding comes from some undisclosed investors as well as from W.L. Gore, JDRF and Asset Management Partners. San Diego-based ViaCyte partnered with Gore in in March to improve the Encaptra device.

“We believe that ViaCyte’s capabilities in cell therapy for diabetes are the most advanced in the industry, and we are pleased to bring our material and device expertise to the challenge of developing a functional cure for insulin‐requiring diabetes,” said Edward Gunzel, technical leader for Gore PharmBIO Products, in the statement.

JDRF recently established a $42 million fund for Type 1 diabetes research, which will be managed separately from JDRF. The diabetes nonprofit has supported a number of other projects, including Sernova’s Cell Pouch System, an implant that secretes cells that help control blood sugar, and the University of Toronto’s skin patch, which detects low blood sugar and automatically delivers the hormone glucagon to convert glycogen back into glucose.