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4 projects awarded Discovery Transformation Grant funding by Minnesota Partnership

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.--The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics announced four research projects selected for funding from the 2013 Discovery Transformation Grant Program. Together, the selected researchers were awarded a total of $2 million to support their work in diabetes research. Minnesota Partnership funding comes from money appropriated by the Minnesota Legislature

With an eye on funding projects with the highest potential for transformative results, the selection process for the Discovery Transformation Grant Program was extremely rigorous, say Partnership leaders. It involved both a review of proposed projects' scientific rationale and feasibility as well as an assessment of their intellectual property and commercialization potential. While the process was led by the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic, each project was also reviewed by external experts as well as a scientific advisory panel made up of globally-prominent experts in diabetes research. The comprehensive review process is aimed at developing a portfolio of projects that will contribute meaningfully to the development of new therapies for diabetes management and prevention.

The projects selected for funding are:

Insulin Gene Therapy for Diabetes: Insulin gene therapy is a conceptually simple and feasible approach to diabetes management that, if successful, could replace long-acting insulin injections both in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The investigators have created gene therapy vectors coding for insulin and a stop signal that can be activated by giving a drug, so production can be controlled. Based upon encouraging preclinical results, the current project is designed to rapidly advance the new vector to clinical testing in insulin-dependent patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

The principal investigators of this research project are Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Mayo Clinic and R. Scott McIvor, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota.

A Revolutionary Sensor Platform for Realizing the Artificial Pancreas: New technologies are making it possible to develop a system to automate insulin delivery by continually monitoring blood glucose. The investigators aim to develop a graphene-based wireless sensor that can be placed in blood vessels for accurate and continual monitoring of blood glucose levels. This level of data is key to achieving optimal glucose control with an artificial pancreas.

The principal investigators are Yogish Kudva, M.D., professor in the Department of Endocrinology at Mayo Clinic and Steven Koester, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

SERCA Activators for Advanced Diabetes Therapy: This project seeks a major advance in treatment for Type 2 diabetes, based on development of drugs that regulate movement of calcium within cells by targeting a naturally occurring pump abbreviated as SERCA. The investigators have already discovered several promising drug candidates that activate SERCA and alleviate mitochondrial dysfunction related to diabetes. The researchers will use high-throughput drug screening technology to find new drug candidates, and then chemically optimize their medicinal properties, paving the way for safety testing and clinical trials.

The principal investigators are David Thomas, Ph.D. and David Bernlohr, Ph.D., who are both professors in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics at the University of Minnesota.

A Novel Method for Detecting and Targeting Diabetes Specific CD4+ T Cells: Type 1 diabetes is a chronic T cell-mediated autoimmune disease that results in the destruction of the insulin secreting beta cells. Advances in biomarker technology have allowed the investigator and his team to identify, track and study individual CD4+ T lymphocytes present in Type 1 diabetes. In this study, the investigator will evaluate the potential of novel biomarkers to permit diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes before irreparable destruction of beta cell mass has occurred and to track auto-reactive cells during ongoing disease.

The principal investigator is Brian Fife, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota.


Contact: Bob Nellis
Mayo Clinic

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