Funding for this transformative research is being led by a gift from the Wanek family, which owns Ashley Furniture Industries, the world's largest home furniture manufacturer. Through the generosity of the family and gifts from an anonymous donor, individuals and corporate and foundation partners across the country, City of Hope will be able to devote more than $50 million over the next six years to an innovative research effort, the Wanek Family Project for Type 1 Diabetes, that seeks to find a cure for T1D. Research results may also benefit the larger T2D population.
The project will create a series of highly-focused programs based at City of Hope that will use an integrated approach to curing T1D, including immunotherapy approaches, as well as research into beta cell transplantation and preventing the body from rejecting those insulin secreting cells.
"City of Hope is best positioned to take on this challenge," said Robert W. Stone, president and chief executive officer of City of Hope. "This is thanks to our 40-year institutional legacy of pioneering treatment and research advances in diabetes.
"City of Hope is extremely grateful for the Wanek family's significant gift that will enable the institution to forward type 1 diabetes research, the results of which will have worldwide impact. We invite others to join the Wanek family and City of Hope as we continue to move even closer to a cure for type 1 diabetes."
"City of Hope scientists' research has revolutionized the understanding and treatment of diabetes," said Todd Wanek, chief executive officer of Ashley Furniture, speaking on behalf of his family. "It continues today as physicians and scientists gain systemic understanding of diabetes as a complex, multifaceted disease."
"Our family is extremely confident that City of Hope is the institution that will find a cure for the more than one million Americans who battle type 1 diabetes disease every day," Wanek said.
The City of Hope goal to cure T1D will focus on three core areas that are crucial in treating both types of diabetes:
- Immune modulation – Research is already underway at City of Hope to unlock the immune system's role in diabetes, including T cell modulation and stem-cell based therapies that may reverse the auto-immune attack on islet cells in the pancreas, which is the cause of T1D. City of Hope's Bart Roep, Ph.D., previously worked at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands, where he was instrumental in launching a Phase 1 clinical trial for a vaccine that aims to spur the immune system to fight, and possibly cure, T1D. Plans are developing for a larger, phase 2 trial to launch in the future at City of Hope.
- Beta cell expansion and replacement – Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both develop due to the dysfunction and demise of insulin secreting beta cells. Researchers will work to improve methods of boosting and replacing beta cells, as well as imaging them, to encourage long-term survival, said Fouad Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Clinical Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism; Chair, Department of Translational Research and Cellular Therapeutics; Director, Islet Cell Transplant Program and Associate Director, Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute. The Wanek Family Project studies will derive new innovations to correct the beta cell dysfunction in diabetes.
- Preventing diabetes complications – Both T1D and T2D are associated with similar complications such as accelerated heart, kidney, neural and eye diseases that greatly increase morbidity and mortality rates. Scientists will work on intervening at the genetic level to reverse complications and seeking ways to predict the development of complications in order to prevent them from occurring.
Distinguished City of Hope diabetes research faculty who will lead these efforts include:
Bart Roep, Ph.D., Chan Soon-Shiong Shapiro Distinguished Chair in Diabetes and Professor and founding Chair, Department of Diabetes Immunology, will lead the Wanek Family Project; Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D., Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery; Director, Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute and Director Emeritus, Beckman Research Institute; Fouad Kandeel; Rama Natarajan, Ph.D., National Business Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research; Professor and Chair, Department of Diabetes Complications and Metabolism and Member, Molecular and Cellular Biology of Cancer Program; Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., Ruth B. and Robert K. Lanman Professor and founding Chair, Department of Molecular & Cellular Endocrinology; and Defu Zeng, M.D., Professor, Department of Diabetes Immunology; and Professor, Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as one of only 47 comprehensive cancer centers, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the world. City of Hope is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics throughout Southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, diabetes and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs based on technology developed at the institution. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.
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SOURCE City of Hope