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JDRF announces winners of first phase of Agnes Varis Glucose-Responsive Insulin Challenge

New York, NY, September 17, 2012JDRF, the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, announced today the winners of the Theoretical Phase of its first-ever public challenge, which called for novel theoretical ideas to approach the discovery and development of glucose-responsive insulin (GRI) to treat diabetes. GRI has been an elusive goal for diabetes researchers. The treatment would deliver a precise amount of insulin needed in response to circulating blood glucose levels 24 hours a day, reducing or eliminating high and low blood sugars and much of the daily burden of managing diabetes. For people with insulin-dependent diabetes, including those with T1D, current insulin treatment demands constant monitoring and arduous administration.

JDRF launched the challenge one year ago in partnership with InnoCentive, Inc., a pioneer in open innovation and crowdsourcing. From a pool of 63 applications, 23 were selected for final review. Three of those ideas were selected to receive the Agnes Varis GRI Grand Challenge Prize, a project made possible with support from The Agnes Varis Charitable Trust.

The winners of this stage of the challenge include one individual scientist and two teams of scientists: Luz Blanco, Ph.D., owner of Light White Innovation Technology in Ann Arbor, MI; Xi Chen, Ph.D., a doctorate fellow at The University of Texas at Austin, and research partner Siqian Feng, Ph.D., also a doctorate fellow at The University of Maryland, College Park; and Mohsen Chitsaz and Alborz Mahdavi, both graduate students at California Institute of Technology.

JDRF conducted a rigorous, blinded review of every application and assembled an external panel of judges to also review each application. The panelists' areas of expertise were diverse, including clinical pharmacology, diabetes research, endocrinology, regulatory, biochemical engineering, material sciences, and others. Together, JDRF and the panel selected three winning proposals. The decisions were unanimous.

"This is the first time JDRF has used a challenge prize to solicit and attract innovative thinkers both within and beyond the diabetes field to present their theoretical ideas toward solving an extremely challenging area in diabetes research. We're excited by the response and the creative ideas we received," said Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D., senior director of treat therapies for JDRF. "Glucose-responsive insulin is a major area of interest for JDRF as developing a GRI would vastly improve the lives of people who depend on insulin to live. Through the challenge, we aim to broaden our innovative approach to developing GRI and, we hope, transform theories into therapies."

The next phase of the GRI challenge will be the Discovery Phase, building on the winning ideas. This phase will provide experimental design and validation of the potential GRI drugs, culminating in pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies with timelines and budget estimates.

"Out-of-the-box thinking and crowdsourcing have proven to be valuable tools in research," said Dr. Dutta. "We look forward to beginning early discovery research based on the original ideas of these talented prize winners."


Contact: William Sorensen

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