NUI Galway awarded €6 million for stem cell clinical trials to tackle diabetes

NUI Galway has been awarded a major new €6 million European project, designed to address complications associated with diabetes. The research project will examine the ability of stem cells to safely control glucose levels and alleviate the damage caused by six different diabetic complications.

Professor Timothy O’Brien, director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI ) at NUI Galway, who is also a consultant in endocrinology at Galway University Hospitals, will co-ordinate the project. Orbsen Therapeutics Limited, an NUI Galway spin-out company, is the lead SME on the project. Clinical trials will take place in Ireland and Denmark using stem cells discovered by Orbsen. In total, nine new research jobs are to be created in Ireland by the project.

An estimated 60 million patients with diabetes mellitus in the EU are using prescription drugs to control blood glucose levels. Poor control of blood glucose levels may lead to a number of diabetic complications, including: nephropathy, retinopathy, cardiomyopathy, neuropathy, impaired bone repair, and wound ulceration.

“At the moment, there are very few treatment options available to control the initiation and progression of these complications,” explains Professor O’Brien. “In addition, there are no treatments which will improve glucose levels and simultaneously treat the diabetic complication. These complications therefore continue to be a major challenge for clinicians and patients alike.”

The REDDSTAR project, originally conceived by Dr Steve Elliman, head of research and development at Orbsen Therapeutics, will take place over two phases. The first will examine which diabetic complication responds best to stem cell treatment in various models of diabetes. The second phase will involve a clinical trial at the Steno Diabetes Centre in Denmark, in collaboration with clinicians at the Diabetes Centre in Galway University Hospitals, specifically in the complication which showed the most promising results in the first phase.

Orbsen Therapeutics Limited was formed as a spin out company to advance and commercialise new intellectual property developed by researchers at the SFI-funded REMEDI at NUI Galway. The university has become a leading centre of translational research in adult stem cells involving its National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES ) and REMEDI.

Co-ordinated by NUI Galway, the REDDSTAR (Repair of Diabetic Damage by Stromal Cell Administration ) project brings together 10 expert teams from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, and the US will comprehensively examine if stem cells can safely address this challenge.

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