NextCell to treat type 1 diabetes in children with stem cells

NextCell Pharma in Flemingsberg has published extremely promising results from its clinical studies of drug candidate ProTrans for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. A study is now being carried out with the aim of examining its efficacy in children and young people.

In Sweden, some 900 children contract type 1 diabetes every year and about 8,000 children have the disease. Growing numbers of people are getting type 1 diabetes and it is becoming more common in children and young people. There is no known cure, but major lifestyle adjustments make it possible to live with the disease.

In type 1 diabetes, the body makes antibodies against cells that generate insulin. NextCell is developing a treatment with stem cells from the umbilical cord that will teach the immune system not to attack the insulin-producing cells. In 2020, the company completed a clinical study that showed that those treated with the drug candidate ProTrans maintained higher levels of insulin production. A similar study is now being conducted with the aim of establishing whether these effects also exist in children and young people. The study is being conducted by Uppsala University.

Mathias Svahn, CEO of NextCell.

“The study is led by some of the top diabetes researchers in Sweden and we have reason to believe that the treatment is more effective in children. Childrens’ immune system adapts more readily, and we’ve seen that children respond very well to the treatment with other cell therapies,” says Mathias Svahn, CEO of NextCell.

Life turned upside down
Elin Cederbrant lives with type 1 diabetes. She was eleven years old when she was diagnosed in 2010. Her diagnosis made her want to contribute to spreading knowledge about the disease and provide support to victims.
“Many people feel extremely alone when they are given their diagnosis. Their whole lives are turned upside down,” Elin says.

Since 2016, Elin runs the non-profit association Together Against Diabetes1, through which she has run several projects. National information campaigns, participated in development projects, lectured throughout the country, distributed specially designed backpacks and developed an app that contains material, information and tools for victims and relatives.

Working closely with NextCell, Elin contacted Layla, a participant in a clinical trial of ProTrans for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. In this interview Layla explains the successful results of the trial.

Elin Cederbrant.

“It would be fantastic if everyone was to get the same treatment as Layla. She has had the luxury of sometimes being able to stop thinking about her illness,” says Elin.

Production in Flemingsberg
In parallel with NextCell’s study with treatment of children and adolescents, further studies are also being carried out to evaluate the treatment over longer periods of time.
“Our progress to date has exceeded my expectations. Running as many as five studies simultaneously for a company our size is a major undertaking. We’ve also made a strategic decision to start our own production in Flemingsberg,” says Svahn.

The company has been working on construction of a production facility for about a year and has completed clean rooms that are now being prepared for commercial production in Novum in Flemingsberg. The facility’s floor space has increased from just less than 300 square metres to 900 square metres, while the number of employees has also increased by about 50 per cent.
“Now we have full control over our production and we’re preparing to licence the technology. My hope is that we can find a solution where a larger pharmaceutical company would manage sales and large-scale production, while we continue to develop the platform for more treatments.”

Treatment using stem cells
Stem cells – or mesenchymal stromal cells – are cells that can develop into several different types of cells. Today, stem cells are used in the treatment of various forms of cancer and a number of unusual diseases. It may be possible to use NextCell’s drug candidate to treat more autoimmune diseases than type-1 diabetes as well as various inflammatory conditions.
NextCell has also founded the Nordic region’s largest private stem cell bank, Cellaviva, where parents can save their newborn babies’ stem cells for their child’s and family’s potential future medical needs.
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