Stephen D. Miller, Ph.D., is the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology–Immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Miller has spent 32 years as a faculty member at Northwestern, where his research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis and immunoregulation of autoimmune diseases, allergic disease, and rejection of tissue and organ transplants.
How did you get started in T1D research?
About 10 years ago, I had just finished a six-year term on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Grant Review Panel and was asked by [JDRF-funded researcher] Matthias von Herath to join the JDRF Immunology Grant Review Panel so that I could bring a fresh perspective to the panel—i.e., someone who focused on a different autoimmune disease. At the time, I was interested in applying tolerance in immune systems through autoantigens and was working on multiple sclerosis [MS]. I was covering autoimmunity, but from a different perspective. I knew I could apply my MS research to type 1 diabetes, and thought I could make a difference.
As a researcher, what are you most proud of?
Taking a career’s worth of work and getting the methodology I developed—defining how to induce immune tolerance—into a Phase I clinical trial. I hope to translate this into a nanoparticle-based approach, then introduce it in patients.
What is the greatest challenge you face?
The hardest part is securing funding for the research and clinical trials. My research has always been focused on a translational path using disease models, so that helps when it comes to finding funding. But clinical trials are expensive!
What do you like about working with JDRF?
The scientific staff at JDRF has always been on top of current research—they’re proactive on finding new methods to treat or even cure type 1 diabetes. JDRF has also introduced me to a number of different biotechnology companies, which have taken notice of my work.
When you’re not in the lab, how do you like to spend your free time?
I like to play golf, but I don’t have enough time! I also enjoy home repair. I have lived in the same house for 32 years— it was built in 1915, and I have renovated the entire house, room by room.