Cutting Edge Pharma Companies Collaborate to Tackle Type 1 Diabetes

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By : Suvarna Sheth

CRISPR Therapeutics, a Massachusetts based gene editing company, and ViaCyte, a regenerative medicine company based in San Diego, California, are coming together to develop revolutionary therapies to treat Type 1 diabetes.

ViaCyte and CRISPR Therapeutics will utilize CRISPR’s gene editing technology and ViaCyte’s PEC-Direct product, which is in clinical trials.

ViaCyte has been creating pancreatic cells out of stem cells, hoping to be used to treat Type 1 diabetes. However, because patients’ bodies treat them as foreign and react to them, the therapy requires immune system suppression.

CRISPR hopes to use its gene editing technology to modify these pancreatic cells in such a way that the immune system doesn’t attack them.

“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,” commented Dr. Samarth Kulkarni, the chief executive officer of CRISPR Therapeutics in a press release.

“Partnering with ViaCyte will allow us to accelerate our efforts in regenerative medicine, an area that we believe will provide a variety of longer-term opportunities for our company,” he added.

Under the agreement, CRISPR and ViaCyte will jointly seek to develop an immune-evasive stem cell line as a first step on the path to a stem-cell derived product.

Upon successful completion of these studies, the parties will jointly assume responsibility for further development and commercialization worldwide.

ViaCyte will receive $15 million from CRISPR in either cash or CRISPR stock. ViaCyte also has the option, under certain circumstances, to receive an additional $10 million from CRISPR in the form of a convertible promissory note.

“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,” said Dr. Paul Laikind, chief executive officer and president of ViaCyte.

“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,” added Laikind.