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July 23rd, 2012
We’ve spoken briefly over the years and our opinions have varied about potential treatments for diabetes, but do you believe something is gonna happen? The miracle breakthrough? Is it realistic to think something can get commercialized when pretty much every diabetic out there believes a cure or better treatment will never happen because they make too much money off us? That would absolutely devastating if true.
I know your trying your hardest to make the Islet sheet a reality. In your opinion are the chances more likely it will work effectively than not work? Have you looked into some of the other research groups like Sernova, ViaCyte, Exsulin, Zhao’s Stem Cell Educator, CureDM? I’m so F****G tired of dealing with diabetes I just can’t imagine going on like this for many more years. People are clueless to how bad this is. I want my life back before its gone. I’m going on nearly four decades and am running out of life. I can’t sit back and wait for the FDA. Someone has to do something as fast as realistically humanly possible.
I would like to donate a few bucks, but would you prefer to the islet sheet or Patient 13 [a documentary film about Scott and the Islet Sheet research]. I’ll gladly be patient 14 if there is a slot open.
I understand your frustration. I have developed patience over these many years but I have my frustration moments, mostly focused on the people who channel funds into various unpromising approaches to a cure. How could they be more wrong? But on one thing I disagree with you: Big Pharma is not capable of stopping a cure if they wanted to; there are just too many actors and drug companies are always trying to get an advantage. I can say from direct personal experience that certain big firms do see encapsulated islets as a potentially valuable product and are acting accordingly. Far more damaging has been the indifference of JDRF to ventures such as Islet Sheet Medical.
To put it plainly, the Islet Sheet is as close to a cure as we will get in my lifetime. And we will have proof of that in the next year.
I am familiar with the other approaches you mention. Sernova’s Cell Pouch System may be useful in conventional islet transplantation but provides no immune protection, so it helps with neither of the critical issues: supply of tissue and immune suppression side effects. ViaCyte has a competing macrocapsule that has been shown to be effective in rodents. We think the Islet Sheet will function better in large mammals. But on the positive side ViaCyte’s progress in transforming human embryonic stem cells into islets has been excellent, and when the time is right I hope we can try putting their cells in the Islet Sheet. Exsulin is developing a drug targeted at regeneration of insulin-producing islets in patients with established type 1 diabetes. Several such ideas are in development, including Denise Faustman’s. (CureDM has the same approach but to date they have published little.) I do not understand Yong Zhao’s paper; I hope someone repeats it. As I have said, these approaches are worth trying given the risk and benefit. But I think it would take extraordinary luck for any of them to work in human beings. We need to know a lot more about both islet development and islet autoimmunity.
Gary, I want my life back too. But my life is at the moment mostly about getting the Islet Sheet shepherded through large-animal studies so we can raise the funds needed to get it into the clinic and the market. I would be happy to have that part of my life in my past.