JDRF Announces New Center of Excellence to Advance T1D Research


On February 23, 2021, JDRF announced the launch of the newest JDRF Center of Excellence in collaboration with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in New England.

Research has shown that receiving transplanted donor beta cells restores blood-sugar control and significantly improves the quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes. Currently, however, this option is limited to a small number of people and these individuals need to take immunosuppressive drugs for the remainder of their lives.

JDRF’s goal is to use beta cell replacement therapies to create renewable cell sources without the need for chronic immune-suppressing drugs for the broader type 1 diabetes community. The Center of Excellence will focus on four main areas of beta-cell replacement research, including:

  1. “Developing reliable systems to examine what happens in autoimmune attack at cellular and molecular levels to reduce or eliminate these reactions.
  2. Engineer a cell system that reproduces and amplifies the beta cell-to-immune cell interactions in human type 1 diabetes (T1D) so that we can better assess the effectiveness of therapies.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 research team is led by Douglas A. Melton, Ph.D. and JDRF scientific staff leader Esther Latres, Ph.D. The rest of the team is made up of key diabetes investigators involved in cellular and immunology research from Harvard, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Joslin Diabetes Center, The Jackson Laboratory and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The New England location marks the third Center of Excellence launched by JDRF.

The Northern California Center of Excellence, a partnership with Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), is looking to better understand interactions between the immune system and beta cell, in an effort to deliver first generation, stem cell-based cures for T1D.

A second Center of Excellence at the University of Michigan, in partnership with the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute is examining the role of T1D metabolism with the goal of preventing or treating short- and long-term complications of diabetes.

“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.”

To read about the first Center of Excellence launched in 2019, CLICK HERE.

Learn more about the JDRF – Beyond Type 1 Alliance.

WRITTEN BY Makaila Heifner, POSTED 02/25/21, UPDATED 11/29/22

Makaila was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 16 months old. Before joining the Beyond Type 1 team in 2019, she worked at several diabetes camps, including Camp Leo and DYF. Makaila earned her BA in Global Studies and a minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. When she isn’t editing articles, Makaila is a fan of soup, public radio and live music. Check her out on Instagram: @makailaheifner.