On August 3, JDRF, in collaboration with The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, announced the award of a $4.6 million grant to the laboratory of Camillo Ricordi, M.D., of the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami. The three-year grant will fund research in the area of beta cell encapsulation, a method by which researchers
aim to improve the viability of donor pancreatic islet cells for use in transplantation in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Dr. Ricordi and his team are developing a bioactive “capsule” that will simultaneously protect implanted islet cells from the recipient’s immune response and allow them to work in the body like natural beta cells, producing insulin as needed.
On August 10, the drug Lucentis, licensed by Genentech, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME). Studies of Lucentis (ranibizumab injection)—funded by JDRF and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Special Diabetes Program (SDP)—demonstrated the drug’s safety and effectiveness in inhibiting the effects of the VEGF protein, which causes tiny blood vessels in the eye to leak fluid, leading to the swelling of the retina that is the cause of DME. Phase III clinical trials with Lucentis showed that the drug was effective at preventing, halting, and in some cases reversing vision loss arising from DME. Between 34 and 45 percent
of study participants who received Lucentis treatment for three years regained sight of at least three lines on a standard eye chart. Following these and other clinical studies, JDRF provided testimony at an FDA Advisory Meeting on July 26 to recommend the approval of Lucentis. A major complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, DME is a leading cause of blindness in adults. As many as 10 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes will develop DME in their lifetimes. The FDA’s approval of Lucentis is an important advancement for people with DME in the United States.