When I joined JDRF as president and CEO a year and a half ago, the organization was at a critical juncture. We were clearly in a position to leverage 40 years of tremendous scientific advances and increased understanding of type 1 diabetes (T1D) to provide us with opportunities greater than ever before to advance progress toward a cure. We also found ourselves presented with critical opportunities for transforming the lives of people with T1D in the near term. JDRF would not be forced to choose between a cure in the future and better, safer, and healthier lives for people with T1D today. This is why JDRF has embraced our responsibility and obligation to stakeholders by continuing the acceleration of research progress toward a cure and playing a linchpin role in the development and delivery of transformational therapies for all those living with T1D.
JDRF’s goal of keeping people living with T1D today healthy and safe while
we work toward a cure is why I have fully dedicated myself to the organization that I believe will free my son-and the millions of people like him around the world-from the daily burden of this terrible disease. I believe that one day in the future, we will declare victory and eliminate this disease entirely-and JDRF will have led the way. I want to do everything I can do to make this vision a reality.
To support our expanded mission, JDRF research strategy needed to embrace important areas of treatment and prevention, which is exactly what we have done. Today we are seeing meaningful breakthroughs across a range of areas. Some of these breakthroughs are bringing the outlines of a cure into focus; others are providing a line of sight to treatments that will fundamentally transform how people of all ages and at all stages live with T1D.
Today, we know that a biological cure for T1D requires not only restoring beta cell function by either regeneration or replacement of beta cells, but also preventing their immune destruction. JDRF is aggressively pursuing both approaches to restoring the cells necessary to allow a person to live free of insulin administration. Regeneration of insulin-producing beta cells, an area in which JDRF research has led the way, is a powerful approach that could one day leverage the body’s ability to replace the cells killed by T1D’s immune attack. By combining regeneration and a therapy that protects these cells from future immune destruction, we can see the outline of a future cure for T1D. In the near term, we will try to get around the problem of autoimmunity by encapsulating replacement islets within a barrier that protects them from immune attack. Encapsulation of islets is an area of intense focus for JDRF, in which we have seen dramatic progress in the development of novel biomaterials that may one day be able to thwart the body’s autoimmune attack.
When it comes to transforming how people live with T1D on the way to a cure, JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Project (APP) leads the way toward automating insulin delivery. The APP is driven by a consortium of leading clinical researchers, mathematicians, and engineers who are partnering with industry to accelerate the development of the technologies underlying an AP. JDRF funding is supporting the development of these technologies, in addition to other efforts such as faster-acting insulin, improved insulin delivery mechanisms, and glucose-modulating therapies that could decrease insulin requirements or the risk of hypoglycemia. In order to increase the number of people across the world working in this critical area, JDRF recently announced the Glucose- Responsive Insulin Grand Challenge Prize to catalyze activity and identify novel approaches to insulin therapy.
While JDRF activities focus primarily on research funding, we are also strengthening our ability to influence the priorities of other organizations that affect advances in T1D research and development through advocacy and leadership. Last summer, JDRF had the honor of hosting 155 delegates, ages 4 to 17, at the JDRF 2011 Children’s Congress, one of the largest advocacy events in Washington, D.C. Their voices were heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill on issues concerning Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of lifesaving therapies and National Institutes of Health funding for T1D research. These exciting three days were filled with powerful interactions between the delegates and their members of Congress. In the fall of 2011, our full-page advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post helped to increase public and government awareness of the burdens of T1D and the disappointingly slow pace of the FDA on device-development pathways and approval requirements. Our advocacy campaign is intended to assist our research partners in overcoming regulatory barriers that are far too high for T1D therapies and devices, and it has resulted in an unprecedented level of attention from allies in the United States Congress. We spend a significant amount of energy and resources ensuring that we have direct interaction with FDA leadership as we work to accelerate research and development of AP systems.
We have made progress, but there is still much more work to do. The United States is considerably behind the rest of the world in terms of the latest diabetes management devices. A basic low-glucose suspend system has been available throughout the world for three years, but it is blocked in our country by unreasonable regulatory requirements. This is not acceptable. Even the best research cannot improve or save lives if people with T1D are unable to access these technologies.
JDRF’s goal is to improve the lives of people suffering from T1D while on the way to a cure that will remove this disease from their lives entirely. Our progress toward this goal can no longer be measured simply by advances in the science, but instead by wide clinical availability of new therapies and devices, and ultimately the delivery of a cure and prevention of the disease. There is much more to do before we can declare victory and close up shop. However, the near-term prospects for the millions of people living with T1D around the world have never been more promising.
Today, thanks to the generosity and dedication of our donors, volunteers, and staff across the country-and from our international affiliates-we are raising funds for the research programs that bring us closer to our goal. Last year, despite the challenging economy, JDRF raised $199 million. JDRF is proud to lead our peers in fundraising efficiency. This means that more of the money we raise goes directly to funding research efforts directly targeted at curing, better treating, and preventing T1D.
Going forward, we will continue to grow our fundraising capacity and will seek opportunities beyond our already successful Walks and Galas as we realize our new potential for growth. While we grow our fundraising efforts, we will remain committed to maintaining our efficiency leadership-all in the name of making an even bigger impact on T1D.
We are transforming our capabilities so that JDRF is positioned to go further and faster than ever before. We have expanded our research scope. We are raising our voices louder than ever before in our advocacy efforts. And we are working with more partners to achieve more, and better, outcomes for people with T1D.
Thanks to all of you for your continued support. Together, we are raising much-needed funds to make it all happen. Thank you for all that you do for JDRF-and for people everywhere with T1D.
President and Chief Executive Officer