Research Summit: Transforming JDRF

JDRF executives and 110 JDRF donors gathered in sunny St. Petersburg, FL, on May 1 and 2 for the JDRF Research Summit: Transforming JDRF. Attendees, including generous donors and dedicated volunteers from Florida and the surrounding states—as well as some from as far away as California—received a “crash course” in exactly what’s happening in the JDRF-funded laboratories accelerating some of the most exciting type 1 diabetes (T1D) research opportunities.

The summit was opened by Nicole Johnson, a former Miss America who was elected to JDRF’s International Board of Directors this June, and JDRF President and CEO Jeffrey Brewer. To introduce the research updates in the cure, treat, and prevent areas, President Brewer emphasized that while JDRF is the only organization equipped with the resources and expertise necessary to tackle curing T1D, “we don’t want to be forced to choose between a cure in the future and healthier lives today.”

Darlene C. Deecher, Ph.D., JDRF’s senior vice president of research, led the two-day program of research discussions along with Aaron J. Kowalski, Ph.D., assistant vice president of treat therapies, and Julia L. Greenstein, Ph.D., assistant vice president of cure therapies.

Among the most talked-about subjects at the summit was JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Project. Dr. Kowalski described how technology is being combined with physiological data to develop the most reliable algorithms, and by extension the safest devices, possible. He also explained the clinical endpoints that researchers have mapped out to achieve a truly closed-loop system. Dr. Greenstein discussed JDRF-funded research into biomarkers, biological “markers” that will provide insight into which treatments will be effective for which people with T1D.

Four JDRF-funded principal investigators shared details of their current research. Jeffrey Krischer, Ph.D., director of both the Diabetes Center and the Pediatric Endocrinology Center at the University of South Florida, described several clinical trials being conducted by Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, an international network of researchers exploring ways to prevent, delay, and reverse the progression of T1D. Mark A. Atkinson, Ph.D., professor of pathology, immunology, and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida, outlined the goals and achievements of nPOD, the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes, which provides biological tissues to investigators studying T1D.

Cherie Stabler, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering and surgery at the University of Miami and director of the Tissue Engineering Laboratory at the Diabetes Research Institute, described the science of beta cell encapsulation and the effort to make islet transplantation a viable and long-lasting therapeutic option. Roy W. Beck, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Jaeb Center for Health Research, and Katrina J. Ruedy, MSPH, a researcher at Jaeb, discussed the CONCEPTT trial, which is testing the effect of real-time continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) use in pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant.

Summit attendees gained valuable insight into critical T1D research. As Uzal Martz, a donor and volunteer from Raleigh, NC, said, “We came as believers and turned into evangelists, prepared to better communicate and advocate the compelling merits of JDRF and funding needs for the prevention and cure of type 1 diabetes and improving the lives afflicted by it.” To learn more about these research areas, please visit the Research section of the JDRF website.