DRC’s Take: Vertex to Acquire Chief T1D Stem Cell Competitor in All-Cash Deal

Vertex, whose VX-880 stem cell therapy for type 1 diabetes has cleared clinical proof of concept, is acquiring ViaCyte, a private biotech that has also reached clinical trials with its own stem cell therapy. In the $320 million all-cash deal, Vertex will acquire ViaCyte’s human stem cell lines, manufacturing facilities, and other relevant intellectual property.

While both companies are pursuing stem cell-based approaches to treating type 1 diabetes, their methods differ. The Vertex therapy involves injecting synthetic islet cells into patients. By comparison, the ViaCyte therapy uses gene-edited, immune-evasive stem cells encapsulated in implantable devices.

Both companies have reported data from clinical trials.

Data released by Vertex in October 2021 showed that the first patient who received the treatment had a lower average HbA1c (8.6% to 7.2%) and a significantly reduced reliance on insulin injections. Results from a second patient have also been reported and data from additional trial participants are expected later this year or early next year. In June 2021, ViaCyte revealed that a single patient had also experienced a drop in HbA1c (7.4% to 6.6%) but still required insulin injections.

“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,” Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani said in a statement.

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