- Privately held Viacyte, which specializes in regenerative medicine, and Johnson & Johnson are collaborating on a stem cell treatment for patients with type 1 diabetes.
- The therapy is based on coaxing embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells in an in-vitro setting, putting them in a small capsule, and implanting them into patients under the skin.
- Early preclinical research was effective in mice, who started to generate their own insulin-producing cells. Patient testing in a small group of individuals with type 1 diabetes began a year ago, and no side effects have been reported yet.
Viacyte’s stem cell therapy has been 10 years in the making, with a steady influx of funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF). A year into human research, they are teaming up with J&J's Janssen BetaLogics group to combine resources and push this therapy through the development process. The team hopes to make it available to the 1.25 million people with type 1 diabetes in the U.S.
There have been many near misses among past efforts to develop effective treatments for type 1 diabetes. The unique delivery system of this therapy may boost Viacyte’s chances of success, however. The implanted capsule protects the introduced insulin-producing cells from the body's immune system.
If early results can be replicated in a larger numbers of patients, this therapy might lead to a future where patients with type 1 diabetes no longer have to inject insulin.