JDRF Launches Center of Excellence to Accelerate Cure for Type 1 Diabetes


On September 4, JDRF announced the launch of its Northern California Center of Excellence, dedicated to focused efforts on high-impact research and breakthroughs to cure type 1 diabetes. The center sees the coming together of influential research teams at Stanford University and University of California, San Francisco.

“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 concentrate on immune cell interactions with insulin-producing beta cells, using stem cells to generate islets and immune cells, and developing methods for insulin-producing cell transplants without requiring immunosuppression. According to JDRF, many of the scientists involved have received early-career grants from the organization that led to them making type 1 diabetic (T1D) research a career focus.

Successes with transplanting insulin-producing cells into those with type 1 diabetes have resulted in instances of curing the condition. This course of action is not widely available as of yet, namely because insulin-producing cells must be donated and supply is obviously an issue. To complicate matters, those who receive cell transplants must take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives.

The Northern California center is co-led by Seung Kim, M.D., Ph.D., director, Stanford Diabetes Research Center and Matthias Hebrok, Ph.D., director, Diabetes Center at UCSF. Both institutions boast experts in numerous fields, including technology, stem cells, transplant immunology, gene editing and T1D immunology.

“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.”

This first center ushers in a new funding model that stands to provide stability and flexibility for long-term research projects. Each center will be funded for five years initially, with a review after year three. JDRF feels the model will promote collaboration and give particular support to institutions that have demonstrated capability in type 1 research.

This news comes at a time when T1D research seems to be accelerating faster than ever. In June 2019, study results showed that the immunotherapy drug teplizumab was able to delay type 1 diabetes diagnosis a median of 2 years in children and adults at high risk, paving the way for possible future prevention of the disease among high-risk populations.

Read Beyond Type 1’s interview with Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., who was appointed president and CEO of JDRF in April.

WRITTEN BY Jordan Jendricks, POSTED 09/04/19, UPDATED 11/14/22

Jordan recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles after earning her BA in English and film studies. She is a passionate storyteller, traveler and lover of people and hopes to use her experience working in tech and as a writer to advocate for the BT1 community. In her spare time, she also enjoys hiking, karaoke and cooking for friends. Check her out on Instagram: @jordanjendricks.