JDRF has announced the launch of the JDRF Northern California Center of Excellence, to accelerate high-impact research at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, to develop cures for T1D.
“We’re excited that the Northern California center is our first Center of Excellence,” said Aaron J. Kowalski, Ph.D., President and CEO of JDRF. “The scientists at Stanford and UCSF are leaders driving true innovation as they advance research into the immune system, beta cells, and stem-cells.”
The Northern California center will focus on delivering first generation cures for T1D in areas with the potential for significant breakthroughs. Researchers will concentrate on the interaction of immune cells with insulin-producing beta cells; generating islets and immune cells from stem cells for next-generation therapies; and developing ways to transplant insulin-producing cells into people with T1D without requiring immunosuppression.
Transplanting insulin-producing cells into people with T1D has been shown to allow some people with T1D to become free of the disease. However, the intervention is not widely available for multiple reasons: insulin-producing cells currently must come from organ donors, so that means there are few available; and right now people who receive cell transplants from organ donors must take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their lives. The JDRF Northern California Center of Excellence will seek solutions through continued research in beta cell biology and immunology to make these transplants a widely available intervention for people with T1D.
“We are excited about JDRF’s commitment to creating this Center of Excellence that will allow my colleagues and me to accelerate our efforts towards defining aspects of T1D that can be explored for therapeutic intervention,” said Matthias Hebrok, Ph.D., Director, Diabetes Center at UCSF, and co-lead of the Center of Excellence. “We are focused on generating new insights into the complex interactions between the immune system and their target, the insulin producing beta cells that are destroyed in people with T1D, and on translating these findings into creating novel therapies to improve the lives of patients and their families as soon as possible.”
The center brings together experts in the fields of stem cells, T1D immunology, gene editing, transplant immunology, and technology. Many of the scientists have received JDRF early-career grants that prompted them to make T1D research the focus of their life’s work.
“We are identifying paths toward cures — and bringing these scientists together supports the acceleration of advances in crucial areas bridging bench work to clinical care,” said Seung Kim, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Stanford Diabetes Research Center, and co-lead of the Center of Excellence. “We are dedicated to scientific discoveries about this disease and changing lives for people with T1D.”
JDRF is developing Centers of Excellence at a time of accelerating advances in T1D research. The new model of funding will provide Centers of Excellence with the stability to drive longer-term projects as well as the flexibility to be nimble as new science emerges. The innovative funding model promotes collaboration and provides longer-term stability to institutions that have demonstrated excellence in T1D research. Each will be initially funded for five years. Funding beyond year three will be confirmed after a review and evaluation.
Together with strategic partners around the globe, JDRF accelerates T1D cures through initiatives that encourage collaboration, inspire innovation, leverage resources, and engage emerging talent. JDRF remains focused on curing T1D, while helping people stay healthy until that day, advancing therapies into the hands of people with the disease as quickly, efficiently, and affordably as possible.
The JDRF Centers of Excellence elevate these efforts, serving as central pillars of JDRF’s broader strategy in pursuit of cures for T1D. The centers are sponsored through generous support of JDRF donors. The JDRF Northern California Center of Excellence is made possible with initial contributions from Karen and Jeff Jordan, Michelle Griffin and Tom Parker, and Karen and Joe Niehaus.