ViaCyte CEO Says $10M Grant Will Move Stem Cell Therapy to Trial

Xconomy San Diego — 

A $10.1 million grant the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) awarded to ViaCyte last week will be used to move the San Diego diabetes company’s stem cell and cell encapsulation technologies into human clinical trials, according to ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind. CIRM administers $3 billion in funding for stem cell science that California voters approved in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71.

ViaCyte has developed a pair of related technologies that have eliminated symptoms in diabetic rats and mice. The company was founded in 1999, merged with CyThera and BresaGen in 2004, and was renamed ViaCyte in 2010.

Using genetic tools, ViaCyte says it can direct embryonic stem cells to produce pancreatic progenitor cells with the ability to produce large quantities of safe and functional islet cells, which can be used to treat patients with insulin-dependent Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. A related proprietary technology enables ViaCyte to encapsulate its engineered cells in packets that can be implanted beneath the skin in a way that allows the encapsulated cells to release insulin into the bloodstream. The company describes its technology as an “artificial pancreas” that does not require drugs to suppress the body’s immune response to the implanted cells.

Laikind, who was named as ViaCyte CEO in June, told me yesterday at San Diego’s annual Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa that CIRM has supported ViaCyte through previous rounds of funding. In announcing the grant, CIRM noted that the independent Grants Working Group characterized ViaCyte’s proposed therapy as the “holy grail” of diabetes treatments.

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