JDRF Honors Pioneering Type 1 Diabetes Researchers with Annual Awards

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Remember and celebrate the life of Mary Tyler Moore with JDRF. #MooreForever

A Beta Cell Therapy Research Team, Immunologist and Diabetes Organ Donor Network Are Among the Recipients

JDRF recently presented its prestigious annual research awards to a diverse group of scientists and organizations whose innovative work is moving us closer to a world without type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Presented in mid-January in Los Angeles, the three awards recognized JDRF-supported T1D researchers and organizations that are making breakthroughs on a variety of scientific fronts. Each of the recipients has helped significantly advanced our understanding of T1D or brought us closer to developing new, more effective therapies for this life-threatening disease. Their combined work is making strides in the areas of T1D pathology, immunology and novel methods for long-term management of the disease.

The 2014 JDRF David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence was presented to the former and current research team at ViaCyte, Inc., a San Diego, California-based regenerative medicine company that is at the forefront of developing an encapsulated cell therapy product that has the potential to provide long-term relief from daily insulin dosing, which is currently the only treatment for T1D. The company’s experimental implant, called VC-01, wraps precursor islet cells inside a protective barrier that prevents them from being attacked by the immune system, allowing them to produce and deliver insulin as needed. In preclinical trials, VC-01 proved capable of controlling blood-glucose levels in mice. ViaCyte began human clinical trials of its product this past October.

The 2014 JDRF Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award went to Bart Roep, M.D., Ph.D., an immunologist and director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence at Leiden University in the Netherlands, whose research has provided novel insights into the autoimmunity associated with T1D. His work has led to a better understanding of the immunology of T1D, and it is helping to clarify the role of T cells in the disease’s development.

The 2014 JDRF Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) received the JDRF Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine Excellence in Clinical Research Award for its role in advancing pivotal T1D research by collecting and supplying investigators with donated tissue from deceased individuals who lived with or were at high risk for the disease. Prior to nPOD’s founding in 2007, there was no central repository for samples of human T1D tissue, which created a dearth of resources and slowed research. Since its inception, the donor network has supplied tissues to over 130 research projects in 17 countries. Currently led by Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., of the University of Florida Diabetes Institute and Alberto Pugliese, M.D., of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, nPOD has helped to significantly improve researchers’ understanding of the T1D disease process.