TUCSON, Arizona, December 7, 2020 – Procyon Technologies LLC today announced that it has entered into an exclusive research collaboration and license agreement with Novo Nordisk A/S to develop an implantable cell encapsulation device to be used in Novo Nordisk’s development of a novel therapy for Type 1 diabetes.

The collaboration brings together Procyon Technologies’ expertise with development of oxygen enabled implantable cell encapsulation devices and Novo Nordisk’s expertise in stem cell-derived insulin-secreting cells.

The partners will work together to further optimize the device and cells for clinical testing and accelerate the path to First Human Dose with the joint vision of delivering a functional cure for people living with Type 1 diabetes.

Under the terms of the agreement, Procyon Technologies, a startup founded to commercialize innovations developed at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, will receive an upfront license fee and will be eligible for further payments relating to preclinical, clinical and regulatory milestones. In addition, Procyon Technologies will receive tiered sales milestones and royalties on the annual net sales of the products resulting from the collaboration.

Novo Nordisk will be responsible for the development, manufacturing and commercialization of the products resulting from the collaboration for Type 1 diabetes.

The right cells and the right device

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. For people with Type 1 diabetes, life-long daily administration of insulin to control their blood sugar and constant blood glucose monitoring is the burden of reality.

“If we are able to offer a treatment that safely and effectively replaces the insulin-producing cells that people with Type 1 diabetes have lost, we could essentially offer them a functional cure for their disease,” said Jacob Sten Petersen, DMSc, corporate vice president and head of stem cell research and development for Novo Nordisk.

Since 2008, Novo Nordisk has invested in human stem cell technology and worked on generating a protocol for stem cell-derived insulin producing islet-like clusters for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes.

But having the right cells is only half the solution; the cells also need to be protected from the recipient’s immune system to avoid rejection, as well as from the autoimmunity of Type 1 diabetes.

For the last two decades, Procyon Technologies co-founder Klearchos Papas, PhD, a professor in the Department of Surgery and director of the Institute for Cellular Transplantation at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, has been working on a solution to the second part of that challenge.

“As a pancreas transplant surgeon, the idea of replacing beta cell function in a diabetic patient to prevent progression of diabetic complications makes perfect sense,” said Michael M.I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, dean of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson and professor of surgery and immunobiology. “Therefore, the notion of doing this without the need for major surgery and without the need for anti-rejection drugs by leveraging the assets of academia with those of industry represents the next frontier in curing Type 1 diabetes and preventing its complications.”

With support from JDRF International and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and utilizing key University of Arizona facilities and infrastructure (such as the BIO5 Institute device prototyping lab), Dr. Papas and his team developed oxygen enabled implantable immuno-isolation device technology with a focus on safety, practicality, and the maintenance of viability and functionality of encapsulated cells.

“We are delighted and excited to join forces with Novo Nordisk and provide the ‘implantable encapsulation device’ part of the functional cure for people suffering from Type 1 diabetes. Novo Nordisk is a leader in the development of stem cell-derived insulin producing islet-like clusters, has demonstrated strong commitment, and has the capacity, infrastructure and most importantly, the shared vision and interest in seeking to bring this functional cure to patients,” said Dr. Papas.

“The combination of the implantable encapsulation device with islet-like clusters provides a unique opportunity to develop a novel cell therapy for diabetes. This announcement reinforces the value of JDRF in supporting science and technologies that can be further advanced in partnerships,” said Esther Latres, PhD, assistant vice president of research at JDRF.

“Dr. Papas’ work exemplifies our research mission in the Department of Surgery. The collaboration between our investigators and clinicians allows for the development of innovative, cutting-edge solutions to the clinical problems we treat every day,” said Taylor S. Riall, MD, PhD, chair of the UArizona Department of Surgery. “The partnership between Procyon Technologies and Novo Nordisk represents the culmination of years of hard work and will revolutionize the care of people with Type1 diabetes.”

A therapeutic implant

The Procyon cell encapsulation device is a small, flat, thin, highly durable, flexible implantable chamber. It mitigates foreign body response, promotes the formation of vascular structures on its surface enabling the rapid diffusion of nutrients to the cells inside and the rapid absorption of insulin (or other therapeutic molecules) secreted by the encapsulated cells while providing a barrier protecting them from attacks by the body’s immune system without the need for immunosuppressive drugs. The Procyon technology, designed with practical clinical use as a driver, includes integration of oxygen delivery to the implantable device, which enables tighter packing of cells while maintaining their viability and functionality.

About Procyon Technologies LLC:

Procyon Technologies LLC (https://procyon-technologies.com) was founded in Arizona in 2016. Klearchos Papas, PhD, Allison F. Corkey, MS, Thomas Loudovaris, PhD, and Robert C. Johnson, PhD, are co-founders and worked with Tech Launch Arizona, the University of Arizona commercialization arm, to protect the intellectual property and license the platform technology suitable for the implantation of a variety of therapeutic cells aimed at treating a number of disorders. In addition to being highly respected researchers in the field of diabetes and encapsulation therapy for decades, Dr. Johnson, a part-time research professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Arizona, has had Type 1 diabetes for nearly 51 years and Dr. Loudovaris is the father of two children with the disease.

Allison F. Corkey