BB&T Israeli Correspondent

A device that is implanted subcutaneously in a 15-minute, minimally invasive procedure, performed under local anesthesia in the out-patient clinic is being eyed for purchase by Boston Scientific (Natick, Massachusetts), according to Globes, the Israeli version of the Financial Times. This hybrid biologic device, an artificial pancreas dubbed BO2, is under development by Israeli start-up Beta-O2 Technologies (Petach-Tikva), founded in 2004.

Globes, an on-line daily, recently reported that Boston Sci is in advanced negotiations for an option to acquire Beta-O2 in stages. According to the local media source, Boston Sci is buying a 10% share in Beta-O2 for $4 million, with additional investment subject to progress in product development and regulatory approval. In the end, the U.S. company could acquire full control of Beta-O2, at an amount, including royalties, said to exceed $1 billion.

The BO2 allows implanted islet of Langerhans insulin-producing beta cells to normally monitor blood glucose levels and secrete insulin according to need, as the pancreas cells are continuously oxygenated and nourished by green microalgae suspended in water droplets.

Carbon dioxide waste, that animal cells normally produce, is consumed by the microalgae which are photosynthetically stimulated by a tiny artificial light-source to continuously produce oxygen — a miniature ecosystem that replicates the interdependent role of Plant and Animal Kingdom on Earth, using water as the common medium, in a device the size of a pacemaker.

It is widely known in the diabetes community that other efforts to produce an implantable artificial pancreas capable of restoring normal glucose-stimulated insulin secretion are yet to succeed.

Although unwilling to comment on the BSC media report, Beta-O2’s CEO Chanan Schneider, CEO of Beta-O2, had said earlier that “The challenge of supplying oxygen to transplanted cells has not been solved until now. The technology developed by Beta-O2 proves that a solution can be found.”

The company also had stated its hope to see this artificial pancreas to market by 2011, assuming all goes well.

The B02 has undergone extensive laboratory and animal testing since the implantable chlorophyll-based oxygen generator was invented and patented (2001, 2002) by Beta-O2 cofounders Pnina Vardi and Konstantin Bloch, leading clinical and research endocrinologists from Tel-Aviv University and Rabin Medical Center (Petach Tikva), with serial entrepreneur Yossi “Yosef” Gross, and co-workers.

In 2004, the start-up completed a $2 million seed financing round led by Vitalife Life Sciences Venture Fund (Savyon, Israel), with Heznek, the Israeli government start-up fund. Pitango (Herzliya), one of Israel’s top venture capital funds is a major shareholder. Beta-O2 has raised $7 million to date.

The biggest problem has not been obtaining the beta cells as transplants from deceased donors nor implanting them, but preventing these high-metabolism cells from dieing due to lack of oxygen and establishing an ongoing feedback-regulated loop of ambient glucose and insulin,” Bloch told Biomedical Business & Technology.

“The BO2 is based on a new model system for immuno-isolated islets in combination with light activated, photosynthetically-stimulated, oxygen production of microalgae. The illuminated algal cells are co-immobilized in a separate compartment from the insulin-secreting islets,” Bloch said.