JDRF is deeply saddened by the passign of type 1 diabetes (T1D) champion – Aldo A. Rossini, MD. Dr. Aldo Rossini was universally considered by his peers as a brilliant physician, scientist, and teacher. At the time of his passing, he was the Mary K. Iacocca Visiting Scholar at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, as well as Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS). As an endocrinologist and specialist in diabetes, he pursued novel approaches to understanding the development of diabetes, with the goal of advancing targeted therapeutics to prevent or cure the disease. Indeed, with his 45 year career in diabetes research, he was well known for his efforts to define “tolerance” in the immune system, a term used by researchers to describe why the body does…or does not destroy its own tissues; the former representing the notion of autoimmunity.
Dr. Mark Atkinson, a Professor at the University of Florida Department of Pathology and JDRF Research Advisory Chair, noted Dr. Rossini was a true “pioneer” in the field of type 1 diabetes: “In the mid-1970s, when information pointed towards type 1 diabetes being an autoimmune disease, this concept was proven by a relatively small number of thought leaders, including Aldo. He was the quintessential physician-scientist. His pathway from the laboratory bench to the clinic and back again to the patient was more than just mere physical steps…it was a process that helped him shape our understanding of how type 1 diabetes develops.”
Dr. Atkinson also noted Dr. Rossini’s deep concern for the next generation of type 1 diabetes researchers. “Over the last decade, I know of no type 1 diabetes investigator who expressed more concern that the community should identify ways to support young investigators, be they PhDs or MDs, than Aldo. He feared that without such support, both the care as well as the ability to identify a means to prevent or cure the disease would be severely compromised.”
Dr. Rossini’s interactions with JDRF as both a funded researcher as well as a consultant date back to the earliest days of the organization. In more recent times, in 2007 JDRF funded the UMMS Heat Shock Protein Consortium directed by Dr. Rossini and comprised of a unique group of scientists with diverse expertise in the basic sciences. This grant supported a number of innovative studies that uncovered novel “players” in beta cell survival and insulin secretion. Our hope is that these diverse yet interconnected studies set into place with that program will permit the translation of “discovery” research into tangible therapeutic options. Along with his team at UMMS, he also developed new strategies to prevent recurrent autoimmunity associated with islet cell transplantation.
In 1986, Dr. Rossini received JDRF’s David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence. Over the years, he was the recipient of several awards from the American Diabetes Association, including the Albert Renold Award, given annually to an individual who has made a significant impact as a mentor to diabetes researchers or to a community of diabetes investigators. Many of Dr. Rossini’s associates are still making contributions today.
On behalf of everyone at JDRF and the entire T1D community, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Rossini’s family, friends and colleagues.