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Type 1 diabetes cell therapy research gets FDA funding

As reported in Fierce Biotech, in America Semma Therapeutics has raised $114 million to take a potentially-curative Type 1 diabetes cell therapy through clinical proof of concept. The funding round positions Semma to start learning whether its insulin-producing cells can control blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Semma Therapeutics was set up in 2014 to capitalize on a breakthrough that enabled the production of pancreatic beta cells from undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells. The new investment enables the company to test whether its preclinical work will translate into clinical success. Semma is advancing toward the clinic on the back of research into how to administer beta cells so they deliver insulin to the body without being rejected by the immune system, a challenge that has been the focus of its research over the past two years. Semma’s earlier research left the company with an understanding of how to produce beta cells, at least at lab scale, but without a device in which to encapsulate them. Douglas Melton, Ph.D., Semma founder and co-author of the beta cell paper that triggered its creation, says, “Semma’s scientists have very effectively dedicated themselves to systems that reliably generate cells indistinguishable from human pancreatic beta cells and to the invention of novel devices that are immunologically protective and surgically practical.”

Meanwhile, regenerative medicine tech developer, Sernova received a nod from the FDA to start a new human clinical trial to use its key technology, Cell Pouch System (CPS) in the US. The primary objective of the study is to demonstrate safety and tolerability of islet transplantation into the Cell Pouch and the secondary objective is to assess efficacy through a series of defined measures. The JDRF has been providing the funds for this trial and so far, has promised to provide $2.4m to support the trial.

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