Dr. Kevin D’Amour, Director of Stem Cell Research at Viacyte, gave an excellent, extremely interesting talk Friday morning: Developing an Encapsulated Stem Cell Therapy for Diabetes.
In the talk, Dr. D’Amour gave a very detailed description of their products Pro-Islet and Encaptra. Together these products form an encapsulated beta-cell product that is in pre-clinical development for the use in treating Type I Diabetes.
In discussing Pro-Islet, he mentioned that it is 98% pancreatic cells and 2% other cells. Once encapsulated, Pro-Islet maintained normal human blood sugar levels in recipient mice suggesting that the human ES cell-derived beta cells are programmed to maintain the normal human level of blood sugar (about 100) as opposed to the normal mouse level which is about 2-fold higher. Since it is encapsulated the product has many advantages including it can be removed, it is immune protected, and it keeps the cells in a defined location for enhanced safety.
I am very excited about this technology and Dr. D’Amour’s talk was intriguing. I asked during the Q&A how long he thinks it will be until they are anticipating starting a Phase I trial and he said 18-24 months.