JDRF Announces New Center of Excellence in New England to Advance Type 1 Diabetes Research

The multi-institutional center will focus on accelerating gene editing approaches for beta cell replacement therapy

NEW YORK, NY, February 23, 2021—JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, announces, in collaboration with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the launch of the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England.

Led by Harvard Stem Cell Institute co-director Douglas Melton, Ph.D. and JDRF scientific staff leader Esther Latres, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President of Research, the new center is a cross-institutional collaboration between leading Massachusetts-based experts, including Michael Brehm, Ph.D., and Dale Greiner, Ph.D., of the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence at UMass Medical School, and Stephan Kissler, Ph.D., at Joslin Diabetes Center. The team will closely collaborate with Lenny Shultz, Ph.D., at The Jackson Laboratory in Maine.

“By taking advantage of the advances in stem cell science and genome editing, our team is excited to work collaboratively to solve the problem of immune rejection of beta cells,” said Dr. Melton, who is the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. “We aspire to find cell and gene manipulations that will enable cell transplantation to treat and maybe cure T1D.”

The Center of Excellence in New England will focus on four main areas of beta-cell replacement research which include:

  • Developing reliable systems to examine what happens in autoimmune attack at cellular and molecular levels to reduce or eliminate these reactions.
  • Engineer a cell system that reproduces and amplifies the beta cell-to-immune cell interactions in human T1D so that we can better assess the effectiveness of therapies.
  • Identify the different subsets of immune cells that target beta cells to apply this knowledge in the development of strategies that prevent beta cell destruction by the immune system.
  • Explore new technologies, such as gene editing, to create stem cell-derived beta cells that can withstand immune attacks to use them in the development of cell replacement therapies.

“The time is now. In this unprecedented era in medical advancement, it is more important than ever that we leverage new innovation to accelerate the most promising areas of research towards cures for type 1 diabetes,” said Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., JDRF CEO. “We believe wholeheartedly in the leadership of both Dr. Melton and Dr. Latres, and we are confident in the groundbreaking work that is sure to come from the Center of Excellence in New England.”

Together with strategic partners around the globe, JDRF accelerates T1D cures through initiatives that encourage collaboration, inspire innovation, leverage resources, and engage emerging talent. The JDRF Centers of Excellence elevate these efforts, serving as central pillars of JDRF’s broader strategy to pursue cures for T1D.

“I am truly blown away by the research planned at the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England. My own desire to find a cure is inspired by my mom living T1D for almost 60 years. We have supported several of the researchers at this JDRF Center of Excellence individually before. But the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England excites me and gives me tremendous optimism because it brings together the brightest minds, along with the entire JDRF ecosystem, with a laser-sharp focus on developing cures,” said John Cammett, Seed Funder, JDRF Center of Excellence in New England.

The JDRF Center of Excellence in New England joins two nationally, and internationally recognized research partners at the JDRF Centers of Excellence in Northern California and the University of Michigan focused on advancing therapies and curing T1D. For more information about the JDRF Center of Excellence program, visit https://www.jdrf.org/impact/research/centers-of-excellence/ 

For more information about The JDRF Center of Excellence in New England please visit, http://jdrf.org/impact/research/centers-of-excellence/new-england/

About JDRF

JDRF’s mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested more than $2.5 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers throughout the United States and our five international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.org or follow us on Twitter (@JDRF), Facebook (@myjdrf), and Instagram (@jdrfhq).

About the Harvard Stem Cell Institute

The Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), formed in 2004, brings together more than 1,000 scientists in the schools and affiliated hospitals of Harvard University. Its mission is to advance the understanding of human development and disease, support the discovery of stem cell-based therapies and cures for diseases, create collaborations across traditional institutional and disciplinary boundaries, and train the next generation of stem cell scientists. The HSCI funds novel research and fosters cross-discipline, cross-sector collaboration to accelerate discoveries that benefit humankind. Visit hsci.harvard.edu to learn more.

About UMass Medical School and the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), the commonwealth’s first and only public academic health sciences center, with a mission to advance the health and wellness of our diverse communities throughout Massachusetts and across the world by leading and innovating in education, research, health care delivery and public service. Learn more at umassmed.edu. Under the co-direction of David M. Harlan, M.D., and Dale L. Greiner, Ph.D., the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence combines cutting-edge diabetes research with the latest in comprehensive patient care. Visit umassmed.edu/dcoe to learn more.

About Joslin Diabetes Center

Joslin Diabetes Center is world-renowned for its deep expertise in diabetes treatment and research. Joslin is dedicated to finding a cure for diabetes and ensuring that people with diabetes live long, healthy lives. We develop and disseminate innovative patient therapies and scientific discoveries throughout the world. Joslin is an independent, non-profit institution affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and one of only 16 NIH-designated Diabetes Research Centers in the U.S. For more information, visit www.joslin.org.

About The Jackson Laboratory

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with more than 2,300 employees. Headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, it has a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn., and facilities in Ellsworth and Augusta, Maine, in Sacramento, Calif., and in Beijing and Shanghai, China. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. For more information, please visit www.jax.org.