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Stem Cell Science Holds Opportunities as Important Tool for Diabetes Research Beyond Cell-Based Treatments

- JDRF President's goal is to progress research from academic settings to

clinical trials and marketable drugs and therapeutics -

BOSTON, Oct. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The promise of research utilizing adult and embryonic stem cells is broader than most might think, including not only the longer-term prospects of cell-based therapies, but also opportunities to understand development and test therapeutics for multiple diseases, including diabetes, according to Arnold W. Donald, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The President of JDRF, the largest charitable funder and advocate of type 1 diabetes research in the world, made his remarks at a panel on stem cells and diabetes at The Stem Cell Summit here, a conference sponsored by the Genetics Policy Institute, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and Burrill Life Science Media Group.

"JDRF's focus is on filling gaps in the scientific and drug development process, gaps that once filled could accelerate the pace of science leading to a cure for type 1 diabetes and its complications. To that end, our objective is to progress research from academic settings to clinical trials and into marketable drugs and therapeutics," Mr. Donald said. "The embryonic stem cell field is obviously in its infancy, and there is so much still unknown. We recognize that basic research is a necessary precursor for the development of cell-based and other therapies. Therefore some of our most valuable contributions are to help researchers have access to the scientific resources they need to move the ball forward."

Mr. Donald noted that while cell-based therapeutics are, realistically, a long way off, they hold the promise of transformational change in diabetes therapy. But equally exciting, he said, is that stem cell science holds excellent promise as a tool for research for understanding normal and abnormal development, and for testing therapeutics for multiple diseases including diabetes.

In the last five years, JDRF has funded more than $40 million in research utilizing adult and embryonic stem cells in the U.S. and around the world. JDRF committed funds early on for the derivation of new stem cell lines, and last year spent about $3 million on research utilizing embryonic stem cells and about $1.6 million on adult stem cells. In total, JDRF funded some $137 million in science last year aimed at developing cures and therapeutics for type 1 diabetes and its complications.

Mr. Donald noted that JDRF has recently developed a number of initiatives to support new programs in research, including science utilizing stem cells, in order to attract new scientific talent to the field and stimulate creative thinking about diabetes research. He specifically pointed to JDRF's recently initiated Industry Discovery and Development Partnership program, a "trend- setting program for a non-profit organization." Through the IDDP program, JDRF makes matching grants -- or sometimes invests side-by-side with venture capitalists -- in high-promise projects at for-profit businesses, typically small start-ups or spin-offs. The program now includes 14 partnerships with companies, representing some $20 million, which are involved in pre-clinical research, as well as Phase 1 and Phase 2 human clinical trials.

Through the IDDP program, JDRF partnered with a Pittsburgh-based company, Stemnion, to investigate the ability of stem cells found on the inner membrane of the amnion to differentiate into insulin-secreting cells. JDRF also funded stem cell research at San Diego-based Novocell that resulted in the generation of GMP quality embryonic stem cell lines.

JDRF was founded in 1970 by the parents of children with type 1 diabetes - - a disease that strikes children, adolescents, and adults suddenly, makes them insulin-dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications. Since inception, JDRF has provided more than $1.16 billion to diabetes research worldwide. More than 85 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education. JDRF's mission is constant: to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. For more information on type 1 diabetes, please visit

SOURCE Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
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