ViaCyte progresses toward trials in stem cell diabetes treatment

The Los Angeles Times provides us with an update on ViaCyte, a San Diego-based company that is looking to make the insulin shot a relic of the past for Type 1 diabetes patients. It hopes to replace the shot with implants filled with insulin-producing pancreatic cells. And the company has its own special recipe to make immature pancreatic cells out of embryonic stem cells.

FierceBiotechResearch first took a look at ViaCyte a little less than a year ago. ViaCyte tells the LA Times that it has successfully "cured" diabetes in hundreds of fortunate mice and is ready to give it all a go on humans by 2013 in trials pushed along in part by $26 million in grants and loans from California's Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). One problem--among many--with stem cell treatments is the body's immune system rejecting them. ViaCyte says it has attacked this problem by keeping the warring parties separated with a thin membrane envelope that allows sugar in and insulin out. The cells remain safely wrapped in the envelope and away from immune-system cells.

"The safety factor is pretty high," Alan Trounson, president of CIRM, says, as quoted by the LA Times. Essentially, says company director Eugene Brandon, ViaCyte is "creating a replacement pancreas."

The article points out that ViaCyte is in the middle of a patent dispute over part of the stem cell procedure with Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, CA. Still, the company says, the trials will go forward irrespective of the outcome of the litigation.

- read the full story in the Los Angeles Times