Friday, September 12, 2014

ViaCyte: Stem Cell Diabetes Therapy 'Not Possible' Without California Taxpayer Cash

The California stem cell agency hit a couple of firsts this week when it pumped up its investment this week in the “teabag” diabetes therapy being developed by ViaCyte, Inc., of San Diego.

The effort, backed by $55 million from the agency, is the first clinical trial in the United States for a diabetes treatment involving human embryonic cells (hESC).

It is also likely the first time that the state of California has directly invested so much money in a single business.

However, the cash and the research work did not happen overnight. The research began many years ago when ViaCyte was known as Novocell. The stem cell agency entered the game six years ago. Wednesday’s $16.6 million cash infusion came on top of $38.5 million already handed out by the state, which is likely to be a financial player for at least several more years, assuming the ViaCyte clinical trials go well.  

Paul Laikind
ViaCyte photo
Paul Laikind, CEO of the firm, was there as agency directors Wednesday approved ViaCyte’s latest application (AP1-08039).  Following the 8-0-1 vote, he said, 
“I can say without doubt that the progress we have made developing our therapeutic candidate would not have been possible but for the tremendous support we have received from CIRM(the stem cell agency).  Importantly, CIRM’s support has been multiplied, as it has helped us to secure other funding sources that we need to drive this project forward.” 
About 40 patients are being recruited for the clinical trial. UC San Diego this week announced that interested persons can contact them at 858-657-7039. Laikind said other sites are expected to open around the country.

Here is the full text of Laikind’s remarks.   
“Good afternoon, I am Dr. Paul Laikind, president and CEO of ViaCyte.
 “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the ICOC, the Grants Review Working Group, the CIRM staff and especially the citizens of California whom you all represent, for the continued support of the work we are doing at ViaCyte to develop what we all hope will be an important, innovative treatment for diabetes.
 “CIRM has been a partner with us in this endeavor since the early days and your confidence and support has allowed us to make tremendous progress.  Last month we were cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials evaluating our stem cell-derived islet replacement therapy candidate in patients with type 1 diabetes.  Following up on that exciting news, it was proudly announced just yesterday that the first center to enroll patients in this trial will be the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
 “To our knowledge this will be the first time an embryonic stem cell derived cell replacement therapy for diabetes will be tested in the clinic.  This exciting development illustrates the importance of CIRM’s mission for medicine and for California.  CIRM is all about breaking new ground, nurturing promising medical advances and stimulating our great state’s economy.
 “I can say without doubt that the progress we have made developing our therapeutic candidate would not have been possible but for the tremendous support we have received from CIRM.  Importantly, CIRM’s support has been multiplied, as it has helped us to secure other funding sources that we need to drive this project forward.
 “Some will point out that that we are still at an early stage with this project and there is no denying that, there is much left to do and discover.  However, together we have made tremendous progress and increased the odds of success with each milestone achieved.  Whatever the outcome, CIRM has pushed the boundaries of medicine and is step by step bringing us closer to realizing the tremendous promise of regenerative medicine.
 “Thank you again for the very important work you are doing.”
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