Sigilon, MIT spinout, collaborated with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company to develop “living drug factories,” made of encapsulated, engineered cells that can be safely implanted in the body to produce insulin over the course of months or even years.
The technology at Sigilon, based on the research conducted during the last decade at MIT has led to develop a device that encases cells and protects them from the patient’s immune system. About 1 millimeter in diameter, the devices are tiny hydrogel beads that can be implanted into the patient through minimally invasive procedures and can be combined with engineered cells that produce a target therapeutic, such as insulin.
Daniel G. Anderson, co-founder, and co-inventor is an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Anderson, said, “This allows us to have ‘living drug factories’ inside our bodies that can deliver therapeutics, at the right amount and in the right location, as needed. The hope is that this living device can be placed in a patient, avoid the need for immune-suppression, and provide long-term therapy.”
“Even the most careful, hard-working diabetics have trouble doing it right, so they will often find their blood sugar is too high or too low,” Anderson says.
On the advice of Langer and Anderson, Sigilon has taken the initiative to commercialize the technology by setting up Sigilon headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an investment of more than $23 million in venture capital.
Sigilon collaborated with Lilly to use its encapsulation technology, called Affirmer, to develop a treatment for type 1 diabetes.
According to Anderson, Lilly is a major player in diabetes treatment, and treatment of diabetes will be taken forward.