JDRF and Israel Science Foundation Joint Program Announces Second Round of Research Grant Recipients

JDRF and Israel Science Foundation Joint Program Announces Second Round of Research Grant Recipients

–Strategic partnership moves forward in funding five world-class scientists in Israel in an effort to accelerate innovative type 1 diabetes research–

JDRF Media Contact:
Tara Wilcox-Ghanoonparvar
212-497-7524
twilcox-ghanoonparvar@jdrf.org

New York, NY, September 12, 2012–JDRF and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) announced today the second round of grant recipients funded by the ISF-JDRF Joint Program in Type 1 Diabetes Research. The five chosen investigators will each receive up to $130,000 per year for up to three years in support of their basic and translational research in type 1 diabetes (T1D).

The ISF-JDRF Joint Program in Type 1 Diabetes Research was founded in 2010, to encourage innovative research on this topic, and increase support of Israel’s talent and expertise in autoimmunity and beta cell biology. The joint venture also aims to bring new scientists from other fields into T1D research through collaboration with acknowledged diabetes experts. The goal of the program, whose first five grant recipients were announced last year, is to accelerate the practical application of basic scientific advances into novel therapies for T1D.

“We enthusiastically support the work of this second group of exceptional scientists through our partnership with the ISF,” said Richard Insel, M.D. chief scientific officer at JDRF. “Their approaches to removing hurdles in type 1 diabetes science are inspiring and important, and we are eager to follow their findings, which could bring us closer to better treatments and a cure for this disease.”

The second round of grant funding through the ISF-JDRF Joint Program in Type 1 Diabetes Research will support the following projects:

  • Benjamin Glaser, M.D.-The goal of Dr. Glaser’s research is to develop a method of inducing the replication of adult human beta cells. After genetic analysis of a disease known as Focal Hyperinsulinism of Infancy, in which beta cells successfully divide without neoplastic changes, Dr. Glaser has identified five candidate genes that may be responsible for beta cell replication. His exploration of these genes could lead to approaches to increase the number of functional beta cells either directly in the body, or for use in transplantation therapy in T1D.

  • Michael Walker, Ph.D. and Yoav Soen, Ph.D.-Drs. Walker and Soen have developed an original technique to identify islet cell surface markers, a longstanding unmet need in the field of T1D research. They plan to apply this marker technology to sort human islet cell types, as well as human islet cells at different stages of differentiation. They also propose to apply their technology to studying human islet cell development. Successful use and development of these tools would have significant impact on the ability to create functional beta cells for cell therapy.
  • Yehiel Zick , Ph.D,-Dr. Zick’s research will attempt to better understand the mechanisms by which the gene TM7SF3 protects human beta cells from death-a function revealed in his recent work. He aims to explore the gene’s significance in helping pancreatic beta cells survive under the influence of cellular stress.
  • Ofer Mandelboim, Ph.D. and Angel Porgador, Ph.D.-Drs. Mandelboim and Porgador will endeavor to develop an antibody that would block the NKp46 receptor, which they found kills beta cells. Natural Killer (NK) cells use receptors like NKp46 to eliminate cells perceived as harmful, and have been identified for their involvement in the development of T1D. An anti-NKp46 antibody could open doors for the treatment of T1D.
  • Yoram Reiter, Ph.D.-Dr. Reiter’s research will aim to establish scientific and pre-clinical foundations for a novel immunotherapeutic approach to prevent and treat T1D. The work introduces a new family of T1D-specific, antibody-based immunotherapeutic agents (T-Cell Receptor-Like Abs), which may be shown to induce tolerance to beta cell inflammation without weakening the immune system in T1D.

“This special joint program with JDRF has become one of the ISF’s flagships’ in biomedical research support,” said Prof. Benny Geiger, a molecular cell biologist and chair of the ISF’s academic board. “It strongly boosted the interest in advancing T1D research among Israeli immunologists, cell biologists, and beta cell experts. The studies of these grant recipients can have a major impact on understanding the mechanisms underlying T1D, and offer new approaches for T1D therapy.”

JDRF’s commitment to the research partnership with ISF was made possible through a seed grant from philanthropists Neil and Lisa Wallack, creating an ongoing campaign called the Israel Initiative. The first round of grants was made possible through additional funding support from the ISF, in an effort to encourage innovative research focused on accelerating progress toward a cure for T1D.

“Through the JDRF-ISF program, we are better able to support the type 1 diabetes research community in Israel, which is an important goal for us,” said Iuval Grisariu, chairman of JDRF Israel. “We’re very happy with its continued success.”

This year, JDRF and ISF will support a third call for applications for Israeli T1D science: project grants, collaborative grants, and a new physician scientist grant program. The deadline for submissions is December 2, 2012. For details, visit: http://www.isf.org.il/english/.

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About JDRF

JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Driven by passionate, grassroots volunteers connected to children, adolescents, and adults with this disease, JDRF is now the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners who share this goal.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has awarded more than $1.7 billion to diabetes research. Past JDRF efforts have helped to significantly advance the care of people with this disease, and have expanded the critical scientific understanding of T1D. JDRF will not rest until T1D is fully conquered. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education.