Inspired by the past, driven toward tomorrow.
That message was woven throughout this year’s JDRF Mission Summit, organized to share news of exciting type 1 diabetes (T1D) advances and outline JDRF’s plans for the future.
“Because of so many dedicated supporters, our extraordinary journey has improved and saved lives,” said JDRF President and CEO Aaron J. Kowalski, Ph.D. “And we are accelerating our work to accomplish so much more.”
The event brought together some of the word’s leading T1D scientists working with JDRF and advancing focused-on therapy areas. As part of the event, JDRF honored five scientists for their leadership work in the field of T1D. Each, in turn, thanked JDRF supporters for enabling and driving their work forward.
Ellen Leake, Chair of JDRF’s International Board of Directors, highlighted the organization’s earliest days, when two mothers joined together 50 years ago to fight T1D and improve lives for people with the disease.
“Right from the start, from that truly humble beginning, ours was a story of inspiration, showing the Power of Us—the power that we could have by working together,” Ellen said.
“In those very early days, JDRF was just a small collection of volunteers. But amazing volunteers who drove some truly forward-thinking, high impact work that shaped who we are, and the impact we are having today.”
JDRF volunteers built a network of researchers working in collaboration; chapters to support people with T1D in their own communities and life-changing programs such as the Bag of Hope, Galas and Walks.
“Each program created connections so that those with type 1 diabetes would know they are not alone—while also raising awareness of type 1 diabetes and raising critically important funds to drive research to cure this disease,” Ellen said.
Today, JDRF is the world’s largest philanthropic funder of T1D research. JDRF has raised more than $2 billion to fight T1D and also secured $3 billion in government funding through our advocacy. JDRF has played a major role in the discovery and availability of nearly every T1D advance of the past 50 years.
Aaron joined Ellen in applauding the progress that has been made in improving the lives of those living with T1D, then focused on what’s next.
“Because of the work of JDRF volunteers and supporters all over the country, we are at the cusp of enormous opportunities to further JDRF’s mission to improve lives of those living with type one diabetes and to find cures for this disease,” Aaron said.
He focused on JDRF’s work to accelerate advances across the research pipeline, moving promising research from one stage to the next and ultimately into the hands of the T1D community so to improve outcomes.
“Our job—and my job as CEO—is to accelerate.”
Key in driving toward curing T1D is to accelerate work in Beta Cell Therapies and Immune Therapies.
“Not only have we figured out how to make beta cells—but we are making them in large quantities and, this year, we developed a super beta cell that acts more like the original—responding faster and better to the body’s need for insulin,” Aaron said.
Scientists also are learning how to transplant beta cells into the human body without rejection and without ongoing doses of immunosuppression medicine.
“What we care about is our loved ones doing better,” Aaron said. “I spend every waking moment thinking about how we can move things faster.”
Next from Mission Summit: What is new in Beta Cell Research and a recap of work being done in all key therapy areas.