We R the Cure

Seeking Cures and Cheating Destiny


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Are You Curious About ViaCyte’s Upcoming T1D Clinical Trials? Here’s More Information

Cross-Section Graphic of Viacyte's VC-01 Encapsulated Delivery System

The VC-01 combination product is expected to be implanted under the skin of the patient through a simple outpatient surgical procedure. The cells are then expected to further differentiate to produce mature pancreatic cells that will synthesize and secrete insulin and other factors, thereby regulating blood glucose, commonly referred to as blood sugar levels.

In the closing paragraph of my last blog post, I tried to strike a balance between hope and realism when describing ViaCyte’s VC-01 combination product and pending clinical trials aimed at a virtual cure for Type 1 diabetes.

The possibility/probability of successful clinical trials makes you anxious, optimistic, and fearful of another big letdown. It also leaves you with lots of questions. So I contacted ViaCyte to say “Thank You” for presenting at the JDRF Research Summit in Bethesda, MD last month  and asked a few follow-ups.  To my delight, I got an email response from a person named “Howard” at the San Diego-based company.

Q: How will you recruit or identify prospects for the upcoming clinical trials?

A: Currently, ViaCyte is still in preclinical development with our diabetes product VC-01; we are not conducting any clinical trials at present.  However, we do anticipate completing the necessary preclinical studies and filing an application with the FDA so as to be able to proceed with human trials sometime later this year.  Note that when the clinical trial starts, ViaCyte will adhere to Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines, which preclude the Sponsor (ViaCyte) from having direct contact between clinical study subjects.

Q: How does the proprietary device ” KNOW” when and how much insulin to release?  Are the stem cells smart enough to automatically ” sense ” the amount of glucose in the body and respond in a measured fashion  just like a healthy pancreas does in non Type 1 Diabetics?

A: Yes, the cells contained in the device are smart enough to know when to secret insulin. Strictly speaking, the cells in the device are not stem cells. They are derived from stem cells but have undergone differentiation to a point where they are no longer considered stem cells. The most current information about our progress and technology can be found on our website.

Q:  Will clinical trial participants be required to take immunosuppressant drugs, and,  if this therapy works, will these drugs be required for the rest of the patient’s life?

A: At the present time we do not anticipate that any immunosuppressive therapy will be required, either during the clinical trial or at any time thereafter.

Q: Is there an age range for eligible human trial participants? If people are interested in the clinical trial or applying, how do they contact ViaCyte?

A: In our first clinical trial we anticipate that the age inclusion range will be from 18 – 55 years. Once clinical trials start, information on the location of clinical study sites will be available online at clinicaltrials.gov, the US government database of current clinical trials. Additionally, information should be available on our website once the trial is closer to launch.

Q: Finally, how will this implantable device actually cure my diabetes?

A: By acting essentially as a replacement endocrine pancreas, the source of insulin and other regulatory hormones produced in our bodies, ViaCyte’s VC-01 combination product has the potential to be a virtual cure for type 1 diabetes. The VC-01 therapy is the combination of:

  • PEC-01 cells: A proprietary pancreatic endoderm cell product derived through directed differentiation of an inexhaustible human embryonic stem cell line, and
  • Encaptra drug delivery system: A proprietary immune-protecting and retrievable encapsulation medical device.


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Encapsulated Cell Therapy Aims to Transform, Cure Type 1 Diabetes? ViaCyte’s Human Clinical Trials Coming In 2014

BETHESDA, MD (March 1, 2014) — Well, there you go again. Getting your hopes up for another possible ” cure” for Type 1 Diabetes. That’s what I told myself as I listened to Dr. Eugene Brandon, Ph.D. — an obviously intelligent scientist who was also able to speak in layman’s language — present his case at the JDRF Research Summit hosted by the Greater Chesapeake & Potomac Chapter of JDRF last Saturday.

As I listened and tried to understand the science behind his talk, it was difficult to stay realistic. If they can implant regenerative cells under the skin and these cells will function like  healthy pancreatic cells, then this crazy idea just might work for some children or adults living with T1Ds. So my next question was: When is the first human clinical trial and how do I sign up? Damn the risks; my time is running out. That’s what went through my mind and probably a few others listening to him speak.

Before I booked my flight to San Diego, I settled down and realized one simple fact: I’m attending a diabetes research summit where “hope” is always the key word. Dr. Brandon,  Director of Strategic Relations & Project Management at San-Diego based ViaCyte, spoke to a full ballroom of  T1Ds and their families at the Bethesda North Marriott during the 4th annual JDRF Research Summit.  Dr. Brandon talked about his company’s VC-01™ combination product. It is a stem cell-derived, cell therapy product that the company believes could transform the way patients with Type 1 diabetes manage their disease.

The product is comprised of pancreatic progenitor cells contained in a proprietary device that is designed to be inserted under the skin.  Upon implant, the product is expected to vascularize as the cells further differentiate to islet-like structures that generate insulin and other expected regulatory factors in response to blood glucose levels, essentially providing patients with a replacement for the cells lost as a result of the disease. The company has reviewed the VC-01™ combination product development plans with regulatory authorities at the US Food and Drug Agency and Health Canada.

By acting essentially as a replacement endocrine pancreas, the source of insulin and other regulatory hormones produced in our bodies, VC-01 combination product has the potential to be a virtual cure for type 1 diabetes. The VC-01 therapy is the combination of:

  • PEC-01 cells: A proprietary pancreatic endoderm cell product derived through directed differentiation of an inexhaustible human embryonic stem cell line, and
  • Encaptra drug delivery system: A proprietary immune-protecting and retrievable encapsulation medical device.

Pending regulatory authority review of its planned application, ViaCyte is planning to initiate clinical development in patients with Type 1 diabetes this year!  As he finished his presentation, Dr. Brandon answered a few of the lingering questions from the optimistic but realistic Type 1 Summit attendees.

The testing has worked in mice. But is it safe for humans?

“By all accounts, it is a stable product. Our testing shows it stays stable for the life of the animal,” Brandon said. “If we can get this biological process to work, we think we can replace the damaged islets.” The company also has developed a process for inserting and removing the implanted device quickly. “Something like this has never been tested in humans before.”

When will human clinical trials begin?

“We think we’ll be in pretty good shape to get this ready and approved by FDA for a first human trial planned in 2014,” Brandon said, adding that his company has already held discussions with the FDA on their proposed timeline. “You don’t want to spring something like this on the FDA.”

What is the lifecycle of the implanted device? 

“That is the million dollar question to be determined in the clinical trial,” Brandon said. “How long will this last if it works?” Because the cells are contained in a ” tea bag” type of container, it is anticipated that the body’s immune system will not strike or reject the foreign object. “Theoretically, these implants could last for many years.  That is the purpose of the clinical trials. We will start learning things that can only be discovered in a human clinical trial.”

At the end of the summit, I left with renewed hope for a cure and the sober realization that this chase for a miracle is nothing new to persons living with all types of deadly diseases. In fact, the JDRF was formed 40+ years ago by parents of children with Type 1 diabetes who were committed to pushing faster to fund a cure.  In seeking a cure, we all jump into the fountain of scientific hope. Compared to the quality of life for diabetics before the discovery of insulin in 1921, Type 1 diabetics are living in a golden age of scientific and technology success. Things are improving at a rapid pace. So we keep chasing the illusion and hope to cheat our destiny for one more hour, for one more day, for one more year. Until there’s a cure … we march on.


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Matchmakers for Clinical Trials: Corengi Launches Free “eHarmony” Search App For Diabetes Research

It’s time to admit my deepest, darkest secret:  I frequently visit an online dating service. I search the site and view the long list of prospects late at night when my wife and family are sleeping.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find my perfect match, and what do I really know about my government-sponsored online dating service? In the morning, after a night of searching, I wake up tired and unsatisfied. However, when it comes to finding a match, I am totally committed to the search.

OK. Relax. And don’t call my wife. I’m talking about diabetes human trials and the lack of a user-friendly search application to make this less cumbersome for individuals who wish to find a match. Thankfully, this may all change soon thanks to the efforts of Ryan Luce and his company, Corengi, which provides a Clinical Options Research Engine to match open trials — for all types of chronic diseases — with the patients willing to participate in the search for a cure.

“That’s interesting that you used that term because we also see the need for an ‘eharmony’ search application,” Ryan Luce, the president and founder of Corengi, said during a recent telephone call. “Our goal is to simplify and improve the search process and to build a large database of qualified participants.” Ryan said the new online effort is a demonstration project focused on Type 2 diabetes with some financial support coming from an NIH grant and other investment capital.

Ryan said Corengi is committed to building a comprehensive, free, and open interactive platform that will allow stakeholders within the clinical trials community (investigators, site personnel, sponsors, and disease advocates) to engage with potential enrollees and educate them about specific clinical trials.

Photo of Corengi's Ryan Luce

Ryan Luce is president and founder of Corengi, a Washington-based digital firm

At this point, the Corengi App connects persons with Type 2 diabetes with open clinical trials — and it is quicker and easier to use than searching the government’s Clinicaltrials.org site. Ryan told me the interactive database has more than 400 Type 2 trials today and is growing daily. Offering a Type 1 diabetes search application, the one that I care about,  will take a little longer to develop because there are more complex data variables to account for than in Type 2 trials ( i.e.  does the patient wear an insulin pump, do they wear a CGM, when were they diagnosed, what is their A1c, etc.)

It is awesome to see that Corengi is close to launching a Type 1 clinical trials search engine. The need for this product is clear. If you make a diabetes online search or view my twitter page on any given day, you’ll see a lot of great trials are happening across the world. When you read these stories closer, however, you’ll also see a common theme: Researchers need more humans to participate in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes clinical trials.

Finally, Ryan says the good news for Type 1 diabetics is that Corengi is not the only business pursuing this solution. “There is an entire industry growing up around this online recruitment idea, and we intend to be a part of the solution,” Ryan said.

Ryan spent most of 2000-2009 working for healthcare technology company NexCura, which was acquired by Thomson Reuters in 2005 and then sold to US Oncology at the end of 2009. NexCura has educational tools that are embedded on a variety of websites, including several of the most prominent advocacy groups. As Director of Product Development, he developed completely new product lines in clinical trial recruitment, market research, and physician messaging. Ryan earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Duke University in 1994 and his Ph.D. in Bio-Organic Chemistry from the University of Washington in 1999.

Ryan sounds like he’s got the technical and business savvy to make this application a success. As a clinical trial participant, I wish him continued success, and when he gets the Type 1 App ready, I’ll partner with him to post it here on WeRtheCure.com for everyone to check out. Thanks Ryan for using technology to produce better solutions and, hopefully, a cure for persons living with diabetes. Together, We R the Cure.


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Clinical Studies Are Recruiting for Participants; We R the Cure — Is It Your Time?

A clinical study involves research using human volunteers (also called participants) that is intended to add to medical knowledge.

Before leaving UVa and giving back the AP, I pose with a few of the team members who watched over me and conducted the outpatient trial. L to R: my nurse, Crystal Leathers, computer engineer Benton MIze, and Stacey Anderson, MD.

Before leaving UVa and giving back the AP, I pose with a few of the team members who watched over me and conducted the outpatient trial. L to R: my nurse, Crystal Leathers, computer engineer Benton Mize, and Stacey Anderson, MD.

There are two main types of clinical studies: clinical trials and observational studies. ClinicalTrials.gov includes both interventional and observational studies.

Searching for a Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Trial? Check out the current list of trials in the United States.  Searching for a Type 2 diabetes clinical trial?  Click this link.


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Researchers Agree: The Status Quo Is Not Acceptable; We Need More Clinical Trial Participants To Drive Progress

Imagine my surprise and excitement when a leading Type 1 diabetes researcher, Dr. Desmond Schatz of the University of Florida, unofficially promoted our “We R The Cure” blog site during the JDRF Type 1 Diabetes Research Summit on Feb. 18, 2012. Let’s roll the audio tape:

We R the cure JDRF walk team

We R the Cure — and so are you. Sign up for a clinical trial today.

“We do not have enough people participating in research studies,” Dr. Schatz told several hundred Type 1D enthusiasts in his opening statements. “My goal is to give you hope, to inspire hope, and to push you to get involved. Without U, there can be no cure.” Almost on cue, an outburst of applause came from the adjacent ballroom where young children with Type 1 diabetes were playing and having fun while their parents attended the JDRF Summit. Dr. Schatz heard the applause and laughed. “I am here to make it clear, that the status quo (in Type 1 research) is unacceptable!” And again, the children cheered right on cue.

This blog is dedicated to the patients, doctors, nurses, researchers and big thinkers who are actively pushing research forward – in our search for solutions & cures for persons living with auto immune disorders such as type 1 diabetes and certain forms of cancer that are tied indirectly to weakened immune systems or a virus attack. If you’re ready to learn more or join a clinical trial, check back here often for news and information. Or simply click on Clinical Trials to get started.

My name is Mike Anderson, and I am the creator and editor of We R The Cure. I received my Type 1D diagnosis — from out of nowhere — in May 1998. Together with my friends and family, I am a passionate advocate for raising awareness and raising dollars for research and real solutions that will improve the quality of life for children, teens and adults living with this chronic disease. And one day — A cure or many cures.

A clinical study involves research using human volunteers (also called participants) that is intended to add to medical knowledge.  There are two main types of clinical studies: clinical trials and observational studies.    ClinicalTrials.gov includes both interventional and observational studies. So, what R U waiting for … Think about joining a clinical trial in 2014. It’s a new year’s resolution that is worth keeping. Thanks for your participation. werthecure.com


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UVA Artificial Pancreas Team Receives $3.4 Million Grant; Technology Aims To Transform The Lives Of Type 1 Diabetics

A high-tech project at the Center for Diabetes Technology at UVa to turn an ordinary smart phone into an artificial pancreas that could transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes has received a $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The Center For Diabetes Technology Team at UVA

The Center for Diabetes Technology Team at UVA is part of a worldwide Artificial Pancreas Consortium working to bring a safe and high-tech Closed Loop System to Americans with Type 1 diabetes in the next few years!

The money will fund a new network approach to artificial pancreas design using distributed computing between local and Cloud systems that will allow real-time adjustment of insulin delivery based on the individual’s needs. The grant will also fund three clinical trials at the University of Virginia and at Stanford University that will advance the project toward its final goal of offering people with type 1 diabetes – in which the body does not produce enough insulin – an automated way to monitor and regulate their blood sugar.

“This project approaches the artificial pancreas not as a single device but as a network of local and global services working seamlessly together towards the optimal control of diabetes,” said Boris Kovatchev, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the Center for Diabetes Technology.

The artificial pancreas was developed at the School of Medicine by a team of researchers led by Kovatchev, the director of the UVA Center for Diabetes Technology, and Patrick Keith-Hynes, PhD. The device consists of a reconfigured smart phone running advanced algorithms, linked wirelessly with a blood glucose monitor and an insulin pump, and communicating with Internet services in real time.

The system’s developers intend for it to monitor and regulate blood-sugar levels automatically, report to a remote-monitoring site and link the user with assistance via telemedicine as needed. This would save users from having to stick their fingers to check their glucose levels multiple times a day and eliminate the need for countless syringes to inject insulin manually. The physicians on the team – Bruce Buckingham, MD, of Stanford, and UVA’s Stacey Anderson, MD, and Sue Brown, MD – have tested the artificial pancreas system in successful outpatient trials in Virginia, California and in Europe.

University of Virginia Press Release


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Clinical Trial At UVA Marches On: Giving My Blood, Time And Type 1 Diabetes For Artificial Pancreas Research

Writing a blog about living with Type 1 diabetes and promoting the need for clinical trials — is not exactly front-page cybernews. It’s OK to admit that I’m blogging for a very limited audience: Me, myself and I. We R the Cure is dedicated to finding solutions, sharing current research news, and spotlighting the need for more persons with Type 1 diabetes to participate in clinical trials.

I’m not seeking publicity or the spotlight. Participating in these studies does, however, sometimes make me feel like Steve Martin’s character in the 1984 movie, ” The Lonely Guy.” Am I the only guy doing this?

Last Thursday at dawn, I traveled to Charlottesville for my in-patient “Metabolic Challenge” hospital admission on Day 17 of the ” Behavioral Mechanisms of Glucose Variability” clinical trial at the Center for Diabetes Technology at UVA. The good news: I completed the study parameters by providing my blood to the researchers as they raised my glucose level above 250 mg/dl and then lowered it below 60 mg/dl to see how the human body responds to glucose swings. “Greater understanding of insulin sensitivity, particularly how the body counters a low blood sugar,” will help researchers and technology experts determine how to refine the math calculations or ” brain power ” needed for the Artificial Pancreas system, according to the UVa team.

So, let me give you the Top 5 newsworthy or ” BIG PICTURE” results from my in-patient day.

Number 5: I did not wear the new DexCom 5 CGM prototype for the admission as originally planned. The manufacturer was not ready to release it for human trial just yet. The next generation DexCom 5 sensor will transmit its glucose readings directly to the AP’s SmartPhone and not to CGM transmitter. This is a key step in closing the loop on the closed-loop AP.

Number 4: The DexCom 5 should be available for testing in upcoming AP clinical trials, hopefully as soon as Feb. 2014. If the DexCom 5 is tested in trials then it sets up the important next step: Setting up “AP home trials” for out patient clinical trials in 2014-2015. A final step on the pathway to FDA approval.

Number 3: To be a clinical trial participant, it helps if you don’t mind having up to 2 IV catheters plugged into your arms. And, you need to ” enjoy ” having blood drawn every 5 minutes during the critical ” high” and ” low ” period of the variability study.

Number 2: It was rewarding to spend a beautiful fall day “inside” at the old UVA Hospital — with the awesome team of researchers, doctors, nurses and clinical trial coordinators. These folks are first-class and extremely talented. A sincere “Thank you” to Dr. Anderson, all of the nurses and staff at the Clinical Research Unit, and the CDT team (Laura, Mary and Molly).  And they served me a fabulous Salmon lunch when I was done!

Number 1: My blood data, CGM readings and insulin pump trend lines will be reviewed and the numbers will be crunched by the CDT team at UVA. I am contributing to a larger, multi-layered, worldwide consortium effort designed to bring the first-ever Artificial Pancreas to the commercial market — and thereby providing better health outcomes and an improved quality of life for the 3 million Americans living with Type 1 diabetes. Laura Kollar, clinical research coordinator and RN with CDT team, added this wrap up to my visit: “Just wanted to thank you (and your amazing blood) for the admission yesterday. You done good!”

It may not be newsworthy, but it’s a worthwhile contribution. Call it a legacy. Together, We R the Cure.

Here are some ” BIG PICTURES” of my day in my hometown, Charlottesville.

Mike Anderson at UVA Rotunda

The Clinical Trial is done at about 4 pm and I can enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon and a Starbucks coffee in Charlottesville, my hometown.

Keeping Record of Highs and Lows.

Keeping track of the blood glucose ” highs and lows” during my Clinical Trial at UVA.

Glucose Variability

My blood samples are lined up at UVA Hospital during Clinical Trial on November 7. It looks like a lot but the total volume taken is about the same or less than a normal blood donation.

Artificial Pancreas Clinical Trial

Automated blood machines are used to analyze and report on my blood glucose levels and other key metabolic factors during my in-patient admission.

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