For serious chronic diseases caused by the loss or damage of specific cell types, pluripotent stem cells can potentially be used to generate new cells, providing a cure by replacing those cells destroyed. For almost two decades, Novo Nordisk has been researching the directed differentiation of pluripotent stem cells into insulin producing beta cells for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. We have now expanded our commitment to stem cell-based research to other serious chronic diseases, with the hope of continuing to offer life-changing treatments for even more patients in the future.
Watch two of our R&D leaders explain our expanded commitment to stem cell-based research as of May 2018.
In an exclusive collaboration with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Novo Nordisk is developing Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliant human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines, with the goal to further develop these into future regenerative medicine therapies. In 2018, employees from UCSF and Novo Nordisk started working together in a new GMP laboratory at UCSF on deriving the cell lines that are expected to define a new quality standard in production of stem cell-based therapies.
“It has been a pleasure to work with our colleagues from?Novo Nordisk who are uniformly collegial and collaborative.”
Professor in the department of Cell and Tissue Biology
University of California San Francisco
The development of GMP stem cell lines in collaboration with UCSF has enabled Novo Nordisk to expand our focus on serious chronic diseases beyond diabetes. Some of the challenges to overcome in stem cell-based research are the development of differentiation protocols for specific cell types as well as cell encapsulation technologies for transplantation purposes. In Novo Nordisk, we collaborate with scientific leaders around the world to overcome these barriers to stem cell-based treatment across a range of disease areas:
Stem cell-based treatment in collaboration with Biolamina and Lund University? ??
Chronic heart failure
Stem cell-based treatment in collaboration with Biolamina and DUKE National University Singapore Medical School
Dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Stem cell-based treatment in collaboration with Biolamina and DUKE National University Singapore Medical School? ??
Type 1 diabetes
Encapsulation device in collaboration with Cornell University
Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Chief Science Officer, talks about the exciting potential of stem cells to cure serious chronic diseases, and Novo Nordisk increased commitment in the field.
Novo Nordisk only works with human embryonic stem cells derived from surplus material from in vitro fertilisation treatment that are donated with voluntarily given informed consent.
The fertilised egg is the only (totipotent) stem cell that can give rise to a human being. Cells found in the early embryo (the blastomeres and the inner cell mass of the blastocyst) can give rise to pluripotent embryonic stem cell cultures that maintain the ability to mature into all the different cell types found in the fully developed body.
Stem cells in the adult body (adult stem cells or tissue-specific stem cells) are used by the body to replace old and damaged cells. As opposed to pluripotent stem cells, adult stem cells can normally only mature into a limited number of specialised cell types (multipotent). Therefore, Novo Nordisk focuses on pluripotent stem cells as a basis for cell therapy.
Research on adult stem cells has been taking place for more than 30 years, and has not been subject to ethical objections, whereas research on stem cells obtained from surplus embryos donated with freely given informed consent is a central issue in the ongoing ethical debate, because the embryo is lost in the process of establishing one continuous cell line. However, new scientific findings show that a human embryonic stem cell line can be established from one single cell of the blastomere stage without affecting the vitality of the embryo. This technique can also be used to generate human embryonic stem cell lines from non-viable blastocysts (which are discarded anyway by IVF clinics).
Currently, the best defined and most extensively used stem cell treatments are based on adult stem cells, including blood stem cell transplantation to treat diseases and conditions of the blood and immune system. Pluripotent stem cells themselves cannot directly be used for therapies as in their undifferentiated state. They will first need to be coaxed into specialised cell types before transplantation. Therefore, it is critical that these cells are proven safe and efficacious in preclinical and controlled clinical trials. Many potential stem cell-based treatments are currently being tested in animal models and a few have been brought to clinical trials, with the first phase 1/2 clinical trial approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010.? ??