One of the leading cell-therapy diabetes companies has just enlisted a rock star. The scientist who first described how to reprogram differentiated cells to pluripotency, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University,has signed a deal with Novocell to use induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to replace the beta cells that are lost in diabetes.
Stem-cell approaches to diabetes continue to garner corporate interests. I described some stem cell diabetes deals involving NovoNordisk and Cellartis back in October.
Novocell and Geron are racing to develop protocols that can make beta cells from embryonic stem cells. The obvious experiment is to try these same protocols on iPS cells too. See our research highlight Perfect pancreatic cells, which links out to other stories.
Here’s the press release from NovoCell. Putting things mildly, it’s not big on details about financial or intellectual property agreements.
Yamanaka is famous for reprogramming cells to pluripotency, not nudging and coaxing and guiding pluripotent stem cells to glucose-responsive, insulin-secreting beta cells. No one is saying anything about what, exactly, Yamanaka might do to make iPS cells that are willing to be coaxed down this road. However, while I’ve yet to see anything in the peer-reviewed literature, more than one conference presentation has described that iPS cells created under different circumstances have different predilections for differentiation.
Also privately funded NovoCell itself is a bit of a new entity now. In November, CEO Alan Lewis announced that he’d be taking a job at the non-profit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation .