Our Hudson Valley Research Update on Saturday, April 22 at the Raymour & Flanigan Showroom in Poughkeepsie, NY provided families and adults living with T1D an opportunity to learn more about JDRF and the research advancements and strides that JDRF is making in our mission to turn Type One into Type None.
Alecia Wesner, JDRF NYC Board Member & T1D Clinical Trials Participant, has been part of the JDRF family since her diagnosis with T1D in 1979. Although her commitment to the JDRF Walk started at an early age, it was reinvigorated in 2001 when she founded Alecias’s Stem Cells, a family and friends Walk team that raised over $300,000 at fifteen Walks across the country. In 2015, Alecia did her first two Rides to Cure Diabetes. After she was unable to complete the entire 100 miles in Burlington, she got back on the bike and rode all 104 miles of El Tour de Tucson in in November.
The Research Update began with a review of JDRF’s Plan for Accelerating Progress across the Pipeline. Alecia then highlighted the progress and next steps in a variety of research areas.
Artificial Pancreas: JDRF began the Artificial Pancreas Project in 2005. Since then, great progress has been made in this area of treatment. Most notably, the successful clinical trials for Medtronic’s 670G and the swift FDA approval which brings the device to market in record time. In addition to Medtronic, there are at least 7 other companies working on AP devices. Alecia has participated in three different AP clinical trials including one at UVA. The technology used for that study has since been purchased by TypeZero and is now in product development. The AP next steps include: miniaturization – making these devices smaller will allow for easier adoption especially for small children; increased automation – eliminating the need to pre-bolus could be allowed by much faster acting insulins; single site for both blood glucose sensor and insulin infusion – developing an infusion set that can remain in the body longer without the risk of infection; and access and affordability – working with healthcare providers and insurers to make these products available to their patients at a reasonable cost.
Beta Cell Replacement: Encapsulation of insulin producing beta cells within an implantable device without the need for intensive immune suppression. There are 18 different trials involving encapsulation. Funding numerous trials to accomplish the same goal ensures that we are more likely to be successful. Among the companies currently working on this research are Viacyte and Beta 02. JDRF’s Encapsulation Consortium is driving innovation, collaboration and scientific advancement. With more than 50 members, these research universities, non-profit organizations and corporations work together to share data, protocol, beta cell sourcing, and standardization.
Glucose Control: Development of novel insulin formulations and drugs that can be used in conjunction with insulin therapy to provide better control of blood-sugar levels. MIT graduate student, Todd Zion, had the idea that he could manipulate insulin to turn on and off depending on the level of glucose in the blood stream. Funds from JDRF and NIH’s Special Diabetes Program provided Todd with the early support he needed to develop his idea and start his company; Smart Cells. The success of Todd’s research prompted Merck to acquire the company and develop the drug candidate, which is now in human trials. Multiple clinical trials are in process testing a variety of dosing options: 1 shot a day; 1 shot every three days; 1 shot per week. Given the success of this early research, all insulin manufacturers are now working on similar insulins.
Prevention: Vaccine development to ensure that no one ever develops T1D. JDRF is pursuing two prevention strategies: Primary prevention means literally preventing the autoimmune attack so people never develop T1D. Secondary prevention is focused on finding ways to prevent insulin dependence in individuals where the autoimmune attack on beta cells has already begun.
Restoration: Therapies that permanently enable people with T1D to produce a sufficient supply of insulin. 3 primary objectives: enhancing the survival of beta cells in people who still have functioning ones; stimulating beta cell regeneration in those who have lost cell mass; and blocking the autoimmune attack that kills those cells and causes T1D.
Complications: The JDRF Complications Program supports the development of therapies and prognostic tools that prevent, treat and reverse diabetes-related eye and kidney disease. Alecia shared her experience with complications: she developed retinopathy in her early 20s and had extensive laser treatments which fully restored her vision. She believes if there hadn’t been people before her who volunteered for clinical trials in laser surgery, she may not have her vision today. She actively seeks clinical trial opportunities for that very reason. While participating in clinical trials is not always easy or may not benefit her personally, she believes that taking part helps to advance science for the greater good.
One critical point that Alecia made several times during her talk was that the increase of human trials has increased rapidly in the last decade. Just 3 decades ago, it was rare for trials to move beyond mice and dogs. At this time, JDRF is funding 50 active clinical trials around the world. We extend our thanks to Alecia for joining us and filling us in on all the wonderful progress being made in T1D research.
The Research Update was bookended by hour-long meet and greets with JDRF staff and volunteers who offered information about our wonderful Ride to Cure Diabetes, the One Walk program, the Hudson Valley Gala and our T1D Connections program. Kids had the opportunity to connect with each other while playing games and making unique creations form a variety of craft supplies.
Special thanks to Raymour and Flanigan for hosting our event as part of their Community Outreach Program. In addition to allowing us to use their showroom for our event, they made a $500 donation and added $106 from the proceeds of a raffle.