Genprex Inc (NASDAQ:GNPX) announced Tuesday that the lead researcher behind its potentially curative diabetes gene therapy, known as GPX-002, has been awarded a $2.59 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Dr George Gittes, Genprex co-scientific director and professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, will use the funding to develop his diabetes research project titled, “Alpha Cell Conversion to Beta Cells in Non-human Primates.”
Gittes and his team plan to conduct proof-of-principle studies of the diabetes gene therapy in non-human primates in preparation for human clinical trials. This technology is the subject of an exclusive license agreement between Genprex and the University of Pittsburgh signed in February.
“We are excited to receive this funding to support our research in diabetic primates as we move toward human clinical trials,” Gittes said in a statement.
“We saw encouraging data in our preclinical mice studies, where the gene therapy reprogrammed pancreatic cells to restore normal blood glucose levels in diabetic mice for approximately four months, which could translate to decades in humans. More recently, preliminary results in non-human primates (monkeys) have also been very promising," he added.
Gittes' gene therapy uses a novel infusion process comprised of an endoscope and a virus vector to deliver specific genes to the pancreas, the company said. The genes express proteins that transform alpha cells in the pancreas into functional beta-like cells, which can produce insulin but are distinct enough from beta cells to evade the body’s immune system.
Diabetes affects more than 34 million people in the US, the company noted.
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