February Cure Champion

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David M. Harlan, M.D. | William and Doris Krupp Professor of Medicine, UMass Chan Medical School; Co-Director of the UMass Chan Medical School Diabetes Center of Excellence; Director of the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England

This month’s Cure Champion is David M. Harlan, M.D., UMass Chan Medical School. For the past 40 years, Dr. Harlan has conducted basic and clinical research exploring the pathophysiology underlying diabetes. He has served as Co-Director of the UMass Chan Medical School’s Diabetes Center of Excellence since 2010 and spent ten years as Chief of the Department of Medicine’s Diabetes Division at UMass Memorial Health. He is also the Director of the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England.

To cure type 1 diabetes (T1D), we know that we must restore or replace the insulin-producing beta cells and protect them from autoimmune attack. There are hundreds of people who have been living for years free from needing insulin injections after receiving transplanted donor islets as the source of insulin-producing cells. While these results have restored glycemic control and significantly improved people’s quality of life, the current approach is available to a limited number of people and these individuals need to take immunosuppression drugs for the rest of their lives. Our ambition at JDRF is to build on these advances so that the broader T1D community can benefit and remove the need for chronic immune suppression drugs.

Having developed a way to make an unlimited number of beta cells using stem cells and establishing the most advanced genome engineering tools and immunology expertise, Dr. Harlan and colleagues focus on the challenge of protecting these cells from the immune attacks that occur following transplantation. They are currently undertaking four projects, the results of which will benefit scientists worldwide aiming to treat and find cures for diabetes.

Dr. Harlan’s accomplishments and expertise are internationally acclaimed as a diabetes investigator and physician. He has been invited to speak worldwide including Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Spain, England, Sweden, Brazil, and Canada. Dr. Harlan has served on the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council and Medical Science Review Committee of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International, been a respected member of the Biological Response Modifiers Advisory Committee for the FDA, Chair of the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions Planning Committee and served on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scientific Review Board as an ad hoc member.

Numerous honors and awards received during his illustrious career include the Frank Brown Berry Prize for Federal Medicine, Legion of Merit from the United States Navy, Peter Forsham Award for Academic Excellence from the Society of Uniformed Endocrinologists, U.S. PHS Physician Researcher of the Year Award, Children with Diabetes Foundation Friend for Life Award, and Massachusetts Medical Law Report Rx for Excellence Award for “Leader in Quality.”

We are truly fortunate to have Dr. Harlan on our team, working tireless on our shared goal of finding cures for T1D. To learn more about the exciting research being conducted at the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England, please visit: https://bit.ly/JDRFCenterofExcellenceNE.