According to ViaCyte, the product works by using an embryonic stem cell and using it as starting material to expand the cells through a differentiation process in manufacturing – in which they become pancreatic progenitor cells known as pec-1.
Pec-1 has been translated into the drug candidate PEC-Encap. Paul Laikind, CEO of ViaCyte, told us that the drug candidate “could render [a] patient completely insulin independent and therefore functionally cured of type 1 diabetes.”
The cell therapy drug is delivered through a subcutaneous device called Encaptra. The progenitor cells are loaded into the implanted device – non-clinical models have shown that the cells will engraft and become the tissue necessary to produce insulin, in response to the signals the body produces such as blood sugar levels.
Encaptra is an immuno-protective device, as is the therapy, because of a membrane used in the device.
“The membrane material in this device, the active component, is made out of Goretex’s [a subsidiary of W.L. Gore] product. Working with W.L. Gore to modify that membrane material to make it resistant to that foreign body response and therefore improving graftness,” said Laikind.
$10m (€8.4m) has been invested in PEC-Encap to further this functional cure. The investment by W. L. Gore, a global science materials company, follows a previous multi-million dollar investment in May of 2017, after a collaboration between the two companies.
ViaCyte stated that the additional investment by W.L. Gore will allow for further clinical testing of the product as early as the first half of 2019.