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A Cure for Diabetes Is Moving Closer Toward Reality

Kate HallKate Hall
Fingerstick blood tests aren't fun.Photograph by Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

This article has been updated to include comment from Johnson & Johnson.

A cure for Type 1 diabetes is reportedly being tested on human patients.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has joined forces with diabetes treatment company ViaCyte to speed the development of a stem-cell based cure, as first reported by the Associated Press. The companies say that it is the first treatment to make it to patient testing.

The therapy, which is being tested in a small number of patients with Type 1 diabetes, implants a small capsule under the skin that is teeming with insulin-producing cells made from embryonic stem cells. The capsule acts like an artificial pancreas, creating insulin in diabetic bodies that can’t make their own.

If the human testing stage is effective, the treatment could be available to Type 1 diabetes patients in “several” years, the AP reported. Eventually, Type 2 diabetes patients should also be able to use the treatment.

In order to pool their assets, ViaCyte acquired the assets of Johnson & Johnson’s diabetes-focused venture, Janssen BetaLogics, giving the private medicine company exclusive rights to 145 patents and 565 pending patent applications, according to ViaCyte. The financial terms were not disclosed.

“For more than a decade BetaLogics and ViaCyte have been independently working toward a stem cell-derived therapy for diabetes,” ViaCyte president and CEO Paul Laikind said in a press release. “We look forward to delivering effective new treatments for this difficult disease.”

In a statement to Fortune, Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman of pharmaceuticals said, “With the focus ViaCyte has in the area of Type 1 diabetes, the combination of Betalogic’s assets and IP can help advance their research and development of medicines that may help this underserved patient population.”