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Significant Advancements in SCN-funded Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Trial

December 2, 2021 (Ottawa, ON) – The promising results from a Canadian clinical trial funded by the Stem Cell Network (SCN) represents a significant scientific advancement in treating those who live with type 1 diabetes. 

In the first study of its kind, Dr. Timothy Kieffer and his team at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) faculty of medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), have helped to demonstrate that a stem cell-based treatment can produce insulin in patients living with type 1 diabetes. The results from the multi-year clinical trial were published today in Cell Stem Cell.

 “This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of stem cells, both of which are significant and life-changing scientific discoveries by Canadian researchers,” said Dr. Michael Rudnicki, Scientific Director, SCN. “The Stem Cell Network is proud to continue to invest in Canadian scientists and cutting-edge diabetes research and clinical trials. We are thrilled that Dr. Kieffer and his partners at ViaCyte are one step closer to developing a transformative therapy for this chronic disease.”

Since 2016, SCN has provided $1.45 million in funding for this innovative research and it has provided vital access to a cutting-edge therapy for type 1 patients who are living with a severe form of the disease.

Clinical trial patients enrolled in the study were surgically implanted, just under the skin, with cell-containing devices about half the size of a credit card. Each device contained millions of lab-grown beta cells, responsible for making insulin. Months after implantation and observation, the research team confirmed that the beta cells survived, had matured, and were producing insulin.

“Stem cell-based therapies are showing incredible promise for the treatment of type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Timothy Kieffer, lead author and professor at UBC faculty of medicine’s departments of surgery and cellular and physiological sciences. “Our findings in this clinical trial are a glimpse into what is possible with continued support from organizations such as SCN. Today we are one step closer to eliminating a patient’s dependence on insulin injections and transforming the future management of type 1 diabetes.”

Funding from SCN enabled Dr. Kieffer’s team to participate in a larger international clinical trial led by California-based biotechnology company ViaCyte, which is testing the cell-replacement therapy on patients at multiple sites in Canada, the U.S. and Belgium. Dr. Kieffer now serves as Chief Scientific Officer at ViaCyte.

Since 2016 SCN has approved 15 projects, including 3 clinical trials, that are advancing potential treatments to tackle type 1 diabetes. Most recently, SCN partnered with JDRF Canada to launch a National Fellowship Program in Type 1 Diabetes, with applications launching in January 2022.

Dr. Timothy Kieffer and his research team also received funding from JDRF, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, ViaCyte Inc., and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The results of the study were also published today in Cell Reports Medicine. To read more about the clinical trial visit: https://news.ubc.ca/2021/12/02/stem-cell-based-treatment-produces-insulin-in-patients-with-type-1-diabetes/

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About the Stem Cell Network: The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is a national not-for-profit organization that supports three main objectives: stem cell and regenerative medicine research; training the next generation of highly qualified personnel; and supporting the knowledge mobilization and transfer of stem cell and regenerative medicine research. From the lab to the clinic, our goal is to power science that will benefit Canadians. SCN was created in 2001. With support from the Government of Canada, the Network has grown from a few dozen labs to more than 196 world-class research groups, supporting 200+ research projects and 24 clinical trials. Since its inception, 21 biotech companies have been catalyzed and more than 4,000 highly qualified personnel have been trained. In 2021, the Government of Canada demonstrated its continuing trust and support in SCN with an investment of $45 million for the 2022–25 period.

Media contact:
Samantha Rae Ayoub
Director of Communications and Knowledge Mobilization
srae@stemcellnetwork.ca