JDRF and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Increase Funding of ViaCyte

-- Treatment being developed would use encapsulation to protect new insulin-producing cells derived from a stem cell precursor --

NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- JDRF, the world's largest non-profit supporter of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), California's stem cell agency, announced that they are providing additional funding for the development of a novel stem cell therapy by San Diego-based ViaCyte, Inc.; JDRF and CIRM will each contribute $3 million to further advance the project.

"One of the most important elements in bringing promising therapies to clinical trials is a strong partnership, and that's what we have with CIRM, JDRF, and ViaCyte," said Ellen Feigal, M.D., senior vice president for research and development at CIRM. "Working together, we can help ensure that the most promising therapies stay on course for timely entry into clinical trials. This additional commitment of funding and support by JDRF is a reflection of the hope we all have that this therapy will transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes." 

ViaCyte's innovative product is designed to deliver to patients immature pancreatic progenitor cells developed from a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) line; over time, these cells develop into mature pancreatic cells that are capable of producing pancreatic hormones, including insulin. These cells are encapsulated in a device that isolates the cells from the host but allows free flow of oxygen, nutrients, and other factors, so that the cells can respond to blood glucose and release hormones like insulin while being protected from the patient's immune system. The combination product is designated VC-01. The benefit of such a breakthrough would be the ability to provide a patient with a new source of insulin-producing cells to replace those destroyed by the autoimmune response that is a hallmark of T1D.

"The research being performed by ViaCyte is very promising," said Julia Greenstein, Ph.D., JDRF's  vice president of cure therapies. "The ability to encapsulate and thereby protect implanted insulin-producing cells has been a focus for JDRF because of its potential to solve multiple problems at once. ViaCyte is currently at the forefront of developing this technology, making this a very attractive research opportunity for us."

The contributions by JDRF and CIRM are intended to move ViaCyte's combination of stem cell-derived pancreatic progenitors and encapsulation device (VC-01 combination product) to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for proof of concept human clinical trials. To date, VC-01 has been shown to be effective in controlling blood glucose in multiple preclinical models, and clinical trials to initially investigate the safety and efficacy in patients with T1D are expected to be initiated next year.

Dr. Paul Laikind, ViaCyte's chief executive officer and president, said, "CIRM and JDRF are valuable partners as we pursue this potentially transformative new approach to controlling insulin-dependent diabetes. While we appreciate their financial awards, we have also benefited from the valuable technical support and advocacy they provide to our program. With their help we will soon determine if the promising results we have demonstrated in preclinical studies translate to patients. If so, VC-01 could essentially represent a cure for type 1 diabetes and an important therapy for patients with insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes."

Video Link
ViaCyte's research and development of a cell encapsulation product holds the promise of a cure for people with T1D and their families. This CIRM produced video describes the work being supported at ViaCyte and explains it potential impact for those with T1D from the perspective of two families that support JDRF's mission.

About CIRM
CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. The statewide ballot measure, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions, was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and called for the establishment of an entity to make grants and provide loans for stem cell research, research facilities, and other vital research opportunities. A list of grants and loans awarded to date may be seen here: http://www.cirm.ca.gov/for-researchers/researchfunding.

About JDRF
JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is now the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.7 billion to diabetes research. Past JDRF efforts have helped to significantly advance the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered. More than 80 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education.

For more information, visit www.jdrf.org.

About ViaCyte
ViaCyte is a private company focused on developing a novel cell therapy for the treatment of diabetes. The Company's technology is based on the production of pancreatic beta cell progenitors derived from human pluripotent stem cells. These cells are implanted using a durable and retrievable encapsulation device. Once implanted and matured, these cells secrete insulin and other regulatory factors in response to blood glucose levels. ViaCyte's goal is long term insulin independence without immune suppression, and without risk of hypoglycemia and other diabetes-related complications.

ViaCyte is headquartered in San Diego, California with additional operations in Athens, Georgia. The Company is funded in part by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and JDRF.

SOURCE JDRF



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