Unraveling Cell Isolation
VitaCyte’s co-founders, Bob McCarthy and Francis Dwulet, were key contributors to the development of the first commercial, purified collagenase-protease enzyme mixture used to prepare cells for subsequent transplantation. This improved tissue dissociation enzyme reagent contributed to success of the “Edmonton Protocol,” the first report of successful treatment of adult patients with Type 1 Diabetes where 7 of 7 patients were “insulin independent” one year after islet transplantation. Prior to the introduction of this purified enzyme reagent, most laboratories performing this clinical research procedure were spending significant amounts of time qualifying collagenase lots for their effectiveness to isolate human islets. Once a lot was selected, the lot qualification procedure was repeated within a year, often because of the instability of the enzymes on storage.
Edmonton’s success led to therapeutic islet transplants being routinely performed outside the US. Presently, a number of leading US diabetes centers are in the process of submitting biological license applications to the FDA to obtain regulatory approval to offer this therapy to patients who have a difficult time managing their diabetes.
VitaCyte was initially funded by receiving NIH NIDDK Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards, a state of Indiana 21st Century Fund award, and several state of Indiana SBIR matching awards.
The VitaCyte team’s curiosity about improving the state of cell isolation/recovery leads us to seek new solutions that reflect our mission to manufacture and support product/services that improve customer productivity. We encourage dialogue with our users who, in turn, stimulate us to develop new or improved products; to collaborate with lead users to develop a deeper understanding of how enzymes release cells from the extracellular matrix; and to engage others at scientific meetings to discuss their concerns about using enzyme to recover cells from tissue or after in vitro culture.