Encellin pouches $9.9m to target diabetes with cell encapsulation tech

Khosla and Y Combinator back UCSF spinout developing implantable pouches that release therapeutic cells when needed.

Biotech startup Encellin has landed a $9.9 million financing round to target chronic disease with its “cell encapsulation” technology platform that aims to deliver years of cell therapy via a single implant. The company’s primary focus is on developing its Encapsulated Cell Replacement Therapy (EnCRT) for endocrine disorders, initially targeting Type 1 diabetes, with Type 2 also in its pipeline.

Encellin is founded on research conducted at Dr Tejal Desai’s lab at the University of California in San Francisco, which focused on refining nanofabricated membranes with well-defined pore structures. The company’s EnCRT cell encapsulation platform, already approved for clinical trials, isolates therapeutic cells from the immune system using soft “nano-porous” pouches fabricated from biocompatible materials. The aim is to allow therapeutic cells to survive in the body by exchanging biomolecules with the surrounding tissues to provide a therapeutic benefit – essentially acting as a “living medicine.”

Constructed from proprietary nano-porous materials, the EnCRT is a compliant polymeric implant that can be minimally invasively implanted without triggering a foreign body response, potentially eliminating the need for immunosuppression and enabling transplantation of various therapeutic cell types.

Encellin pouches $9.9m to target diabetes with cell encapsulation tech
Encellin’s EnCRT implant.

“The technology can be used in a variety of different indications, beginning with chronic endocrine disorders,” said Dr Crystal Nyitray, CEO of Encellin. “Using advanced technologies in nanotechnology and bioengineering, we have developed biocompatible materials into permeable, soft pouches designed to support cell function.”

Encellin says that its preclinical data showed promising results, demonstrating the potential to reverse Type 1 diabetes, and reporting no fibrosis or immune response while maintaining cell viability and function.

The new funding round, led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator, will support Encellin into a Phase 1 clinical trial, evaluating the subcutaneous transplantation of primary islets in Type 1 diabetes. First-in-human data from this study is anticipated next year. Once validated in the clinic, Encellin plans to move into more complex therapies such as stem cells, gene therapy, enzyme replacement therapy.

“The cell is essentially a nanorobotics-based machine,” said Alex Morgan, a partner at Khosla Ventures. “Encellin has developed a technology that safeguards implanted cells and transforms them into programmable molecular factories in the body, releasing therapies when needed. With an initial focus on type 1 diabetes, Encellin’s technology shows promise to be able to deliver a whole range of living medicines from engineered cells.”

Main photo: Encellin co-founders, Crystal Nyitray, CEO, and Grace Wei, COO.
Photo credit: Encellin