Letter from Leadership: Darlene C. Deecher, Ph.D.

I am excited to bring this new issue of Countdown to our readers. It is an issue that speaks profoundly to the core mission of JDRF—research. At the heart of what we do is our dedication and commitment to discover, develop, and deliver advances that cure, better treat, and prevent type 1 diabetes (T1D). As we work toward our goal to transform the life of every person living with T1D, we seek to improve outcomes, reduce daily burdens, and accelerate progress toward a cure. Each day, we are evaluating the research landscape to identify where we can advance T1D science. Our goal is to translate it into meaningful clinical outcomes for people with the disease and those who are at risk.

As you read about the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) in our feature update, you will learn about how we are gaining better information and insights about T1D from (deceased) donor samples of human pancreas and other tissues. nPOD has become a very exciting area of research! More than 100 researchers attended this year’s nPOD Annual Meeting, which took place in Miami, FL, in January—an impressive increase from last year’s meeting, which had far fewer attendees. Through this innovative program created solely by JDRF, we are making progress toward expanding our knowledge about what is actually happening in human T1D disease, both before and after the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas. We are hopeful that findings from research utilizing human tissue samples from nPOD will lead to the development of new therapies for T1D.

Our research strategy incorporates “All Ages and All Stages,” meaning that we focus on the investigation of T1D by stage. This includes studying those individuals who are: at risk for the disease; in the prediabetes stage; newly diagnosed/recent onset; and living with long-established disease. In this issue, you will have the pleasure of getting to know a very special group of individuals with long-established T1D. We are proud to introduce you to the “Medalists” and the 50-Year Medalist Study, which receives JDRF funding. The study, conducted at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA, focuses on men and women who have been living with T1D for 50 years (or more!) and are minimally impacted by complications. Their stories are inspiring—and they fill us with hope for all of our loved ones with T1D. The Medalists truly speak to our goals of improving outcomes and reducing the daily burden of living with T1D.

Another kind of medalist—an Olympian—is the subject of a feature profile in this issue. Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr., who won five gold medals, three silver, and two bronze, will be inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame on July 12, and we celebrate with him as a truly “Olympian” member of the T1D community. Gary is a committed advocate for JDRF, and he has served as an inspiration for young children, teens, and adults with T1D who are striving to attain their goals and dreams.

We learn so much from our T1D researchers, and there is also so much we can learn from our nonscientist T1D community. In “Road Trip Tips,” a lifestyle feature in this issue, you can hear from travelers with T1D who experienced unexpected hypoglycemic episodes, and find out what they learned as a result. They certainly became smarter travelers, and we are glad that they shared their stories with us. There is so much that we can learn!