Large information within the race for a kind 1 diabetes remedy: Vertex Prescription drugs will buy ViaCyte. The 2 companies have been beforehand direct rivals, each pioneering related potential kind diabetes 1 cures utilizing transplanted lab-grown islet cells.
A Vertex spokesman said that the acquisition “will speed up our aim of remodeling, if not curing T1D by increasing our capabilities and bringing further instruments, applied sciences and belongings to our present stem cell-based applications.”
Proper now, the impression of the deal is unclear. It’s not simple to foretell if it will hasten or gradual progress in direction of a stem cell-based remedy.
One the one hand, competitors is the engine of innovation in capitalism, and it have to be thought of factor when a number of companies are racing one another to the end line. The deal raised no less than a couple of eyebrows amongst traders; some puzzled if the Federal Commerce Fee would examine the acquisition for an antitrust violation. A cynical interpretation would possibly level out that this wouldn’t be the primary time a bigger enterprise acquired a smaller one to remove its competitors.
However in an ideal world, combining the belongings of the 2 biotech companies would velocity up the progress.
I reached out to ViaCyte, and expressed considerations that consolidating the 2 companies would scale back the aggressive incentive. Marie Rossi, PhD, ViaCyte’s senior director of communications, advised me that the deal represented “the perfect path to speed up cell-based therapies for sufferers dwelling with T1D” by offering “each firms with complementary belongings, capabilities, and applied sciences.”
As of at this time, Vertex is no less than few steps forward of ViaCyte. Their first affected person is now insulin-free, an incredible landmark that led a number of the mainstream media to marvel if he’d already been “cured.” However many within the diabetes neighborhood don’t think about it a real remedy, as a result of he nonetheless must take immunosuppressive medicine – and can want to take action for the remainder of his life. These medicine can include hefty uncomfortable side effects.
That’s the place ViaCyte might are available in. Though each Vertex and ViaCyte have lengthy labored on methods of encapsulating transplanted islet cells in order that they are often bodily shielded from the immune system, ViaCyte now has a extra promising answer. It has begun experimenting with islet cells which have been gene-edited to evade the immune system. This system, which employs the “revolutionary” Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR expertise, may be the successful formulation for a useful kind 1 diabetes remedy. If it really works, these edited cells would cover in plain sight from the physique’s immune assaults, together with the autoimmunity dysfunction that causes kind 1 diabetes within the first place.
Did Vertex buy ViaCyte so as to mix the brand new gene-editing breakthrough with its personal laboratory’s progress? It looks as if affordable hypothesis.
As for ViaCyte, we simply bought a good thought of their probably motivations as a result of latest launch of the documentary The Human Trial. The movie provides us an intimate have a look at the corporate, following the ViaCyte scientists engaged on the potential remedy (and the brave volunteers prepared to check it). The film portrays a number of ViaCyte staff tearfully explaining their dedication to the trigger – nevertheless it additionally exposes the precarious monetary place that the startup has discovered itself in. We comply with ViaCyte executives as they traipse throughout the globe on the lookout for traders, and listen to them admit that it’s all however inevitable that they’ll finally must companion with bigger companies to convey their remedy to market. It’s comprehensible if that admission strikes an ominous word for some readers, given the fraught relationship a few of us have with the enormous pharmaceutical firms that make the insulin we have to survive.
The street to a remedy has been lengthy and bumpy, filled with false hopes and unrealistic guarantees. Right here’s hoping that these two companies will mix forces to work higher and quicker for folks with kind 1 diabetes.