US biotech firm signs new research agreement with UTS

California-based PharmaCyte Biotech and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have signed a research agreement to develop a new version of Melligen cells that can potentially express higher levels of insulin.

Developed at UTS, Melligen cells are human liver cells that have been genetically engineered to produce, store and release insulin in response to blood sugar levels in the body.

The latest research agreement builds on work undertaken by PharmaCyte, UTS and PharmaCyte’s International Diabetes Consortium over the past two years. This work has resulted in an opportunity to re-engineer the Melligen cells to increase their insulin production and the bioactivity of their produced insulin.

The research will be completed in Australia under the leadership of UTS’ Professor Ann Simpson, the developer of the original Melligen cell line.

‘We are pleased to have come to an agreement with UTS that allows us to take the Melligen cells to the next level in our development of a “bioartificial pancreas” for the treatment of Type 1 and insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetes,’ says PharmaCyte’s Chief Executive Officer, Kenneth Waggoner.

‘If we are successful, it will bring to fruition the many years of research that have been conducted by Professor Ann Simpson and her colleagues at UTS as well as PharmaCyte in developing these remarkable insulin-producing cells.’

PharmaCyte has the exclusive worldwide licence rights to use Melligen cells to develop a therapy for Type 1 and insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetes. PharmaCyte will use its Cell-in-a-Box® technology to protect the Melligen cells from being attacked by the body’s immune system, enabling the cells to function as a bioartificial pancreas.

Melligen cells offer properties that are unique from other insulin-producing cell types, including their ability to withstand an attack from cell-toxic molecules that typically lead to the destruction of insulin-producing cells. Melligen cells can also be expanded in a bioreactor to generate the volume of cells needed for cell banking, testing and production, making them suitable for cost-efficient, pharmacological-grade large-scale production.

PharmaCyte Biotech is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing cellular therapies for cancer and diabetes based upon a proprietary cellulose-based live cell encapsulation technology known as “Cell-in-a-Box®”. This technology will be used as a platform upon which therapies for several types of cancer and diabetes are being developed.

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