NEW YORK, Jan. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- JDRF, the largest private funder of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, has selected a novel beta cell therapy research team, an immunologist, and a diabetes organ donation network and biorepository to receive its most prestigious annual recognitions during its forthcoming awards dinner at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel on Wednesday, January 14th. Collectively, the three awards recognize individual scientists, teams or organizations for their T1D research innovation, achievement or clinical and translational work.
The 2014 JDRF David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence will be presented to the current and former research team at ViaCyte, Inc., a San Diego, Calif.-based regenerative medicine company that is at the forefront of developing an encapsulated cell-replacement therapy that has the potential to provide long-term relief from daily insulin dosing. The JDRF Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award will be received by Bart Roep, M.D., Ph.D., an immunologist and director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence at Leiden University in the Netherlands, whose research has provided novel insights into the autoimmunity associated with T1D. The JDRF Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine Excellence in Clinical Research Award will be given to the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD), which has helped advance pivotal T1D research by collecting and supplying researchers with donated tissue from deceased individuals who lived with or were at high risk for T1D.
"We are pleased to honor such esteemed recipients for their outstanding, seminal type 1 diabetes research," said JDRF Chief Scientific Officer Richard Insel, M.D. "Insulin therapy is currently the only method of treatment for type 1 diabetes, but it requires constant monitoring, and it is still imperfect in many ways. JDRF is committed to finding therapeutic solutions that relieve the daily burden of type 1 diabetes and ultimately eliminate insulin dependence. This year's award recipients speak to that commitment," Insel added. "They have made a broad range of critical discoveries and contributions that are helping to change our understanding and treatment of type 1 diabetes."
"Type 1 diabetes is a life-threatening, lifelong disease that requires constant intervention in order to manage it," said JDRF International Chairman Mary Tyler Moore. "Robert and I are pleased to be part of this effort to recognize researchers whose work is moving us closer to solving the mysteries of this disease and creating a world without type 1 diabetes."
"We've made significant progress in recent years towards a better understanding of the disease's mechanisms," said S. Robert Levine, M.D. "Our current challenge is translating that information into new therapies that help relieve the burden of type 1 diabetes and ultimately provide a cure for the disease. The work being done by these award recipients is accelerating our ability to translate discoveries at the bench into benefits delivered at the patient's bedside, so we are pleased to participate in honoring their contributions."
About the Awardees
Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., ViaCyte, Inc., a privately held biotechnology company, is helping to lead the way in the development of encapsulated islet cell therapies. These therapies have the potential to make individuals with T1D insulin independent by providing safe and effective islet implants that can release insulin on demand in response to the body's rising blood-glucose levels. This year's JDRF David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence is being presented to current and former members of the ViaCyte research team, who collectively created VC-01™, an experimental product that wraps precursor islet cells derived from human stem cells inside a protective device that prevents the cells from being attacked by the body's immune system, allowing them to deliver insulin as needed. In pre-clinical trials, VC-01™ proved capable of controlling blood-glucose levels in diabetic mice, and the novel device entered human clinical trials in October 2014. These are the first human trials conducted to date with a stem cell-derived islet precursor or mature islets. ViaCyte is currently receiving support from JDRF for the ongoing clinical trials, and the stem cell-derived islets developed for the VC-01™ implant were created through previous JDRF-funded research. ViaCyte's work highlights the significant achievement that can be made in diabetes research through strategic collaboration.
Dr. Bart Roep
Dr. Roep, an immunologist and director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, is receiving the JDRF Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award for his pioneering and innovative research in the immunology of T1D. Dr. Roep is the founder and director of the Diabetes Trial Netherlands Platform, and he holds positions on a number of scientific advisory boards and research panels, including JDRF, the Dutch National Research Council, the European Union, the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His research has led to a more profound understanding of the immunology of T1D and has focused on clarifying the role of autoreactive T cells in the disease's development and identifying biomarkers of disease progression. In 2002, he received the prestigious Minkowski Prize from the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) for outstanding contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the field of diabetes mellitus, and in 2013 he received the JDRF Netherlands Award for T1D Scientific Excellence.
Created in 2007, the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) collects and makes available for research pancreatic and other tissues from deceased organ donors with T1D and those who were at high risk for developing the disease. Since its founding, nPOD has supplied tissues to over 130 research projects being conducted by 200 investigators in 17 countries. This resource has provided new insight into pathogenesis of T1D and significantly improved researchers' understanding of the disease. The organization, which is currently led by co-executive directors Mark Atkinson, Ph.D., of the University of Florida Diabetes Institute and Alberto Pugliese, M.D., of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami, will receive the JDRF Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine Excellence in Clinical Research Award for its pioneering efforts in creating and leveraging this groundbreaking research resource.
About the Awards
The JDRF David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence was established in 1974 by actor Dina Merrill in honor of her late son, and it is presented annually in recognition of outstanding achievement in diabetes research.
The JDRF Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award is made possible through a gift given by the couple in 1993. The award was established in honor of the more than 40 years of diabetes research work conducted by Gerold Grodsky, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, and it is given each year to a scientist or research team that has demonstrated excellent leadership and innovation in T1D research.
The JDRF Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine Excellence in Clinical Research Award is named in honor of Ms. Moore—who has T1D and is the international chairman of JDRF—and her husband for their extraordinary commitment to JDRF's mission. The award recognizes outstanding clinical and translational research that has the potential to relieve the day-to-day burdens of T1D and achieve a world free of the disease and its complications.
JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF's goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people's lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence and a working plan to bring life-changing therapies from the lab to the community. As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring more than $450 million in charitable research in 17 countries. For more information, please visit www.jdrf.org