ViaCell and Genzyme Corporation announced today that the two companies entered into a collaboration related to diabetes.
Over the next 18 months Genzyme will conduct research to improve production and characterization of islet stem cells, and to undertake preclinical proof-of-concept studies for the transplantation of adult islet stem cells derived from donated pancreatic tissue. ViaCell will work with Genzyme and conduct complementary preclinical research. No financial terms of the agreement were announced.
ViaCell also announced today the issuance of U.S. Patent No. 6,866,843 entitled, "Method of Transplanting in a Mammal and Treating Diabetes Mellitus by Administering a Pseudo-Islet Like Aggregate Differentiated from a Nestin- Positive Pancreatic Stem Cell". This patent, exclusively licensed from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, broadly covers methods for the treatment of type I insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and other conditions using nestin-positive islet derived progenitor cells (NIPs), which can be expanded and differentiated into pancreatic islet cells, i.e., insulin- producing beta cells. This discovery is based on the work performed by the group of Dr. Joel Habener, Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology in the Department of Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.
"Our collaboration that we entered into with Genzyme in December 2004 and the patent issuance are two important milestones for ViaCell's pioneering program in diabetes," said Marc Beer, CEO of ViaCell. "Our approach uses adult islet stem cells derived from donor tissues. We have seen promising results to date in our research work, and Genzyme has excellent development capabilities which we believe will be helpful in achieving the proof of concept in preparation for human clinical trials."
Georges Gemayel, executive vice president at Genzyme, commented, "This agreement represents a natural evolution of our four-year relationship with ViaCell. ViaCell has an exciting platform in stem cell therapy, and we look forward to applying our expertise to the preclinical development of this program."
"There is a growing body of peer-reviewed publications that support the hypothesis that a human pancreas-derived stem cell may indeed one day help to provide a novel source of islets for use in transplantation therapy to treat type I diabetes," commented Professor Habener. ViaCell's diabetes program uses nestin-positive pancreatic stem cells, and, to date, the Company has successfully expanded and differentiated these cells and demonstrated their ability to produce insulin.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects more than 18 million people and is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. The direct costs for managing diabetes are $92 billion per year in the U.S. People living with diabetes do not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Type 1 diabetes, which accounts for between five and ten percent of all diabetes, is an autoimmune disease, generally occurring in children and young adults. Because patients with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin naturally, they typically rely on daily insulin injections to help maintain their health.