Major stem cell collaboration announced for diabetes encapsulation treatment

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A major collaboration has been announced which will help seek potential diabetes treatment based on a pioneering stem cell approach.
CRISPR Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, has joined forces with regenerative medicine company, ViaCyte.
Together, both firms will work together using ViaCyte’s pancreatic stem-based islet cell replacement procedure, known as PEC-Direct. PEC-Direct is a pioneering stem cell therapy that involves a pouch which encapsulates lab-grown human islet cells. It has been designed to mimic the function of a healthy pancreas.
However, at the moment the immune system tends to reject the cells, recognising them as foreign bodies. In order for the procedure to work successfully, researchers need to find a way to supress the immune system, which is where CRISPR Therapeutics comes in.
The company specialises in developing medicines using its CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing platform. The revolutionary technology allows for precise, directed changes to genomic DNA.
Paul Laikind, Chief Executive Officer and President of ViaCyte, called CRISPR Therapeutics the “ideal partner” for the programme because of the company’s “leading gene editing technology and expertise and focus on immune-evasive editing”.
Mr Laikind added: “Creating an immune-evasive gene-edited version of our technology would enable us to address a larger patient population than we could with a product requiring immunosuppression.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with CRISPR Therapeutics on what we believe could be a transformational therapy for patients with insulin-requiring diabetes.”
As part of the deal, CRISPR Therapeutics will use its immune-evasive technology to develop new cells which could evade detection and destruction by the autoimmune attack that characterises type 1 diabetes.
Samarth Kulkarni, Chief Executive Officer of CRISPR Therapeutics, said: “We believe the combination of regenerative medicine and gene editing has the potential to offer durable, curative therapies to patients in many different diseases, including common chronic disorders like insulin-requiring diabetes.”