New company created to develop novel technology to treat diabetes

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University of Aberdeen

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT) and University of Aberdeen have launched Islexa, a new company developing a novel technology to produce laboratory grown islets, the organoids responsible for insulin production.

The technology could bring the option of an islet transplant to thousands more patients with type I diabetes. Currently in the UK, only 30-50 patients with hypoglycaemic unawareness can receive an islet transplant each year due to the low availability of suitable donor organs and the difficulty involved in extracting the islets.

Islexa technology works by reprogramming donated pancreatic tissue into fully functional islets which will significantly increase the number of patients who can receive the treatment.

An islet transplant can give patients effective, long term glucose control without the need of insulin administration.

Keith Thompson, CEO of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and an Islexa director said:

“This is a really exciting technology that has the potential to bring life changing benefits to these diabetic patients. We are delighted to be forming Islexa with the partners we’ve worked with so far on this project. The collaboration has already delivered promising results and the formation of Islexa will accelerate the development of these lab grown islets and ultimately get this potential treatment to thousands of patients.”

Professor Kevin Docherty, University of Aberdeen said:

“The technology is based on converting pancreatic tissue into functional islets. This has an advantage over the use of stem cells as source material, since at the moment they generate only the insulin-producing beta cells. Islets are organoids that produce multiple hormones, including insulin, and donated islets are already effectively treating severe cases of type 1 diabetes. Having a hugely expanded supply of lab grown islets will enable us to significantly extend this established clinical treatment.”

The creation of Islexa follows successful results in pre-clinical studies on the technology and the company will hold future IP rights of the islet technology. The company will initially continue to focus on further pre-clinical development of the protocol for reprogramming the pancreas tissue into functional islets. The next stage is to take the technology into clinical trials in the next few years.

The expansion and reprogramming technology has been developed at the University of Aberdeen as part of activities led by a consortium with the support of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The consortium partners include University of Aberdeen, the Scottish Islet Transplant Programme, University of Edinburgh, and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS). The consortium partners bring unique expertise in clinical practice and manufacture, and will continue to work closely with Islexa during the development programme.

Mr John Casey, Consultant Transplant Surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and Lead Clinician for the Islet Transplantation Programme in Scotland said:

“Islet transplantation can transform the lives of patients with type I diabetes, and in some cases can result in long term freedom from insulin injections with excellent glucose control. This exciting collaboration between the Scottish Islet Programme, Aberdeen University and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult will allow us to rapidly develop the technology and treat more patients, more effectively.”

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