Vertex Acquires ViaCyte, Combining Resources Toward a T1D Cure


Editor’s Note: ViaCyte’s research is the focus of “The Human Trial,” a documentary released last month on type 1 diabetes (T1D) cures research.

Two big biotechnology companies working to bring cell replacement therapies for type 1 diabetes to patients will combine forces, thanks to a deal reached Monday. 

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a global biotechnology company, will buy ViaCyte, a private company focused on stem-cell-derived therapies, in a $320 million deal. The acquisition is expected to be finalized later this year.

Both companies have focused on therapies to restore endogenous insulin production and stabilize blood sugar levels using proprietary, transplantable insulin-producing cells. 

The effect of these treatments would be astounding—and end reliance on organ donors.

Vertex’s cell-based therapy VX-880 has successfully led to insulin independence in clinical trials.

“VX-880 has successfully demonstrated clinical proof of concept in T1D, and the acquisition of ViaCyte will accelerate our goal of transforming, if not curing T1D by expanding our capabilities and bringing additional tools, technologies and assets to our current stem cell-based programs,” said Reshma Kewalramani, M.D., chief executive officer and president of Vertex.

VX-880 works by essentially replacing the damaged insulin-producing cells in a person with type 1 diabetes with healthy transplanted beta-cells. Because these are “allogeneic” cells—which means they come from outside the patient’s body—the patient must also undergo immunosuppression therapy to protect these transplanted cells from their body’s immune system.

ViaCyte has brought three T1D therapies to the clinical trial stage. The latest, announced in February, was developed with CRISPR Therapeutics’s gene-editing technology, eliminating the need for immune suppression. 

“ViaCyte’s commitment to finding a functional cure for T1D is shared by Vertex, and this acquisition will allow Vertex to deploy ViaCyte’s tools, technologies and assets toward the development of Vertex’s multiple cell replacement therapy approaches designed to reduce the burden of millions of people living with T1D worldwide,” said Michael Yang, president and chief executive officer of ViaCyte.

See the full press release here.

Read past coverage on Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ stem cell therapy:

Read past coverage on ViaCyte’s stem cell therapy:

WRITTEN BY Julia Sclafani, POSTED 07/11/22, UPDATED 12/19/22

Julia Sclafani is a writer, editor and multimedia producer whose work on human rights and public health topics lead her to Beyond Type 1. She received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. An award-winning journalist, Julia cut her teeth at her hometown newspaper. You can find her past work in print, on the radio and across the web.