Novel diabetes treatment developed in Desai Lab to power SF-area startup

A UC San Francisco-created, insulin-generating implant that utilizes nanotechnology is closer to becoming a real treatment for diabetes, after being acquired by a San Francisco-based startup.

The biotechnology company Encellin acquired exclusive worldwide rights to the technology, originally developed in the laboratory of Tejal Desai, PhD, chair of the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.

The company hopes to use a coin-sized device containing pancreatic islet cells that secrete the hormone insulin to coordinate the body’s use of blood glucose to treat type 1 diabetes.

The device, which could be implanted just under the skin, would treat the condition, which affects one million Americans and is caused by the loss of the body’s own islet cells.

The device would work without immunosuppressive drugs, the only known way to keep the body from attacking and rejecting new islet cells in current treatments.

“Given the success of this approach in the lab, we are excited for the potential of this technology to impact diabetes treatment,” said Desai, who directs the Therapeutic Microtechnology and Nanotechnology Laboratory at UCSF, and is an acknowledged world leader in developing microscale and nanoscale drug delivery technologies to solve major health problems.


Tejal Desai, PhD

“We are thrilled to have this technology from UCSF, and to move our therapy toward the clinic where it can benefit patients with type 1 diabetes. Our goal is to significantly reduce the burden of glucose management for these patients without the need for lifelong immunosuppression,” said Crystal Nyitray, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Encellin, and the co-inventor of the cell encapsulation technology in the Desai Lab.

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Innovative Type 1 Diabetes Approach Licensed to Encellin


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, UCSF - UC Berkeley Joint Graduate Group in Bioengineering, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.