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12:00 AM
 | 
Sep 21, 2015
 |  BioCentury  |  Emerging Company Profile

Beta-ing diabetes

Harvard spinout Semma developing preclinical cell therapy for Type I diabetes

Semma Therapeutics Inc. is developing a cell therapy for Type I diabetes that could eliminate the need for daily insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring. The islet-like clusters of mature insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells could generate insulin more quickly upon implantation compared to a more advanced cell therapy that uses progenitor pancreatic cells.

Type I diabetics can be treated with insulin-producing islet cells isolated from a cadaver pancreas, but there is a shortage of suitable donor pancreases. Researchers have thus been exploring ways to use stem cells to generate a source of allogeneic glucose-responsive insulin-producing beta cells.

Semma has an exclusive license from Harvard University to IP covering an in vitro protocol used to generate pancreatic beta-like cells from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Harvard professor and Semma co-founder Douglas Melton and colleagues developed the protocol by taking pancreatic progenitor cells generated by an established protocol and then testing over 150 combinations of over 70 growth factors and small molecule agonists and antagonists that affect signaling pathways. The group's final differentiation protocol used 11...

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