Creating a new company with the University of Aberdeen

The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and the University of Aberdeen have formed a new company called Islexa which aims to develop a novel technology to produce laboratory grown islets.

The expansion and reprogramming technology has been developed at the University of Aberdeen as part of activities led by a consortium with the support of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. The consortium partners include University of Aberdeen, NHS Lothian, the Scottish Islet Transplant Programme, University of Edinburgh, and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS). The consortium partners bring unique expertise in clinical practice and manufacture, and will continue to work closely with Islexa during the development programme.

Islets represent the functional unit of the pancreas, responsible for the production of insulin in response to increasing blood sugar levels. The Islexa technology works by reprogramming donated pancreatic tissue into fully functional islets.

This collaboration will allow the consortium to rapidly develop this exciting technology. Having a hugely expanded supply of lab grown islets will enable us to significantly extend the established clinical treatment of islet transplant to more patients.

Professor Kevin Docherty, University of Aberdeen

Work already underway

The Islexa team will initially focus on further pre-clinical development of the protocol for reprogramming the pancreas tissue into functional islets. This will be followed by clinical trials in the next few years.

Currently in the UK, only 30-50 type 1 diabetic patients with hypoglycaemic unawareness can receive an islet transplant each year due to the low availability of suitable donor organs.

An islet transplant can give patients effective, long term glucose control without the need of insulin administration. Although there are other treatment options such as revision of insulin regime and overall diabetes management, insulin pumps and whole pancreas organ transplant, not all are suitable for patients and do not result in a reduction of insulin dependency. If successful, Islexa’s technology could significantly increase the number of patients who can receive an islet transplant.

The formation of Islexa will accelerate the development of these lab grown islets whilst also creating a structure to protect the IP. This will hopefully lead to the creation of an investible, commercial product that will ultimately help treat thousands of patients.

Professor Johan Hyllner, Chief Scientific Officer, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult