Finnish team talks up prospects of Type 1 diabetes vaccine

The past year has brought renewed hope that a company will commercialize a Type 1 diabetes vaccine in the foreseeable future, with positive news on several fronts softening the blow of 2011's Phase III failure of a Johnson & Johnson-backed candidate. Finnish researchers are the latest to present positive data.

Promising preclinical research follows two decades of investigations into possible viral causes of Type 1 diabetes. Members of the team behind the vaccine linked the enteroviruses it targets to development of diabetes as far back as 1995, but it has taken time to build an understanding of the mechanisms. Having identified 5 viral strains that could cause diabetes, the team has developed a vaccine and shown it to be effective in mice.

"We have identified one virus type that carries the biggest risk. A vaccine could also protect against its close relatives, to give the best possible effect. We know that this vaccine is effective in mice. It is important to test it in people, so that we can be sure that the vaccine prevents diabetes," University of Tampere professor Heikki Hyöty told YLE News. The enteroviruses targeted by the vaccine are believed to cause diabetes by destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

The promising preclinical data is the latest piece of positive news to emerge in the wake of the Phase III failure that prompted J&J ($JNJ) to sever ties with diabetes vaccine developer Diamyd Medical. Earlier this year, a team reported positive Phase I data for their Type 1 diabetes vaccine. And charity Diabetes UK boosted the sector when it committed funding to development of a vaccine.

Cash is currently a limiting factor for the Finnish team. While the project has the support of U.S. and European backers, the team thinks it will need $960 million for clinical trials. "Money is the biggest obstacle to testing in humans at the moment. The matter is of international interest, and people are interested in us. I'm optimistic that the funding will come," Hyöty said.

- here's the YLE article