DRC & Research News

This page shares the latest news in T1D research and DRC’s community.

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DRC was featured in the San Diego Union Tribune

The DRC was featured in the San Diego Union Tribune about how it is successfully providing the seed funding or the “spark” for truly novel T1D research being conducted by talented early-career scientists and has led to much-larger investments from the government or larger charities. “From zebra fish to bacteria, Diabetes Research Connection celebrates a decade funding novel ideas” – The San Diego Union-Tribune (subscription required)


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DRC Announces 2022 Scientific Review Committee

74 type 1 diabetes (T1D) experts from renowned universities and research institutions across U.S. make up this year’s committee to vet innovative T1D research for funding by DRC

SAN DIEGO – February 28, 2022 – Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), a 501(c)(3) that funds research projects conducted by early-career scientists aimed at prevention, better care, treatment of related complications, and a cure for T1D, announces its Scientific Review Committee (SRC) for 2022.

The DRC SRC is a collaboration of T1D experts from renowned universities and research institutions from across the country. The committee members volunteer their expertise and time to thoroughly vet T1D research funding applications DRC receives based on their scientific merit. See the full list of DRC SRC members here.

“I’m honored to be a DRC SRC member. The warmth of the DRC community is unique. It brings scientists, patients, families, doctors, and supporters together. It also gives courage to scientists taking unconventional approaches toward solutions for T1D,” says Dr. Yo Suzuki of J. Craig Venter Institute. “I am forever thankful for the support DRC gave me when I was developing a nascent research idea. I hope to contribute my biological engineering perspectives, which may be non-standard in T1D research, to helping guide future research directions.”

DRC Board Member and previous Scientific Director Alberto Hayek, M.D. says, “These talented scientists and diabetes experts are at the center of our mission. Through their focused and rigorous vetting of projects submitted to DRC for financial support, we are able to provide seed funding to those most likely to find the cause, better treatments, and ultimately, a cure for T1D.”

In 2021 alone, DRC provided seed funding for 16 new T1D research projects, bringing the total support of early-career scientists to almost $2M. Follow on funding, a critical measure of the viability of projects funded by DRC, has topped $8.4M in additional funds for T1D research.

DRC is supported by donations from individuals, corporate sponsors, and private and public foundations. Contact us to discover how you can support DRC’s mission to eliminate T1D.

To donate online today click here.

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Diabetes Research Connection Celebrates Achievements Amid Year-End Giving Campaign to Fund Type 1 Diabetes Research

Supported by corporate sponsorships, county grants, foundation awards, and a donation of $100,000 in matching funds, DRC pushes to fund more innovative research to find the cause, treatment, and cure for T1D

SAN DIEGO – December 16, 2021 – Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), a 501(c)(3) that funds research projects conducted by early-career researchers aimed at prevention, cure, and better care for those with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), announces significant achievements in 2021 amid its year-end giving campaign. This year, DRC has been supported by corporate sponsorships, county grants, foundation awards, and a $100,000 dollar-for-dollar matching gift from an anonymous donor.

In 2021 alone, DRC will provide seed funding for 16 new T1D research projects, bringing the total to 48 innovative studies by early-career scientists awarded since its founding in 2012. DRC expects to support close to $2M in research by year-end, with six early-career scientists receiving DRC funding going on to secure $8.4M in additional funds for their T1D research.

“DRC is committed to providing seed funding for early-career scientists to demonstrate the viability of their peer-reviewed, innovative T1D research ideas. Data driven outcomes show proof of concept to enable our scientists to pursue follow-on funding, often yielding over $1 million,” shared DRC Co-Founder, David Winkler.

 Corporate partners and financial underwriters are instrumental to DRC’s mission and include:


Leading Sponsors


Sustaining Supporters


Event Sponsors


DRC Senior Director of Development Casey Davis said, “I can’t express enough the importance of our sponsors, and corporate and public underwriters to our mission to eradicate T1D through research. That’s what we mean when we say, ‘It takes a community to connect for a cure’.”

Through their help and that of family foundations and other donors, DRC expects to raise a record $750,000 in 2021, and anticipates it will increase that figure to $1 million in 2022.

“DRC is funding important research to find ways to prevent, better treat, and cure T1D. Donors and partners can also choose specific research projects they want to support. This enables you to see your dollars at work,” said Stephen Korniczky, DRC Board Member and Partner, Sheppard Mullin. “DRC not only supports a noble mission, they have been a wonderful partner as well.  I invite other sponsors and donors to join us in supporting DRC in 2022.”

DRC has additional sponsorships available for 2022 at a variety of levels. In honor of its 10-year anniversary it will be re-launching its annual Dance for Diabetes, and event sponsorships, in Fall 2022.

To donate to DRC and double your impact with a tax-deductible donation click here by December 31, 2021.

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Imagine: A World without Type 1 Diabetes

By 2050, 5 million people in the US are expected to be diagnosed with T1D; 600,000 of them will be children, requiring them to regularly monitor blood sugar and putting them at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, blindness and other complications. Hear 18-year-old Cooper Buchanan describe how he learned he has T1D, and, how he and others are imagining a world where no one has to ever hear: You have T1D.

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A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes? For One Man, It Seems to Have Worked

May 2022 Update

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated today provided updates on its Phase 1/2 clinical trial of VX-880, an investigational stem cell-derived, fully differentiated pancreatic islet cell replacement therapy for people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) with impaired hypoglycemic awareness and severe hypoglycemia. According to the results released on May 2, data from the first two patients in Part A established proof-of-concept for VX-880, with one patient achieving insulin independence at day 270 and the other patient showing reductions in insulin requirements through Day 150.

Additionally, the Independent Data Monitoring Committee recommended advancement to Part B, where patients receive the full target dose of VX-880, which has been generally well-tolerated to date. Vertex also announced that VX-880 Phase 1/2 study has been placed on clinical hold in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to a determination that there is insufficient information to support dose escalation with the product.

Click HERE to read the full article about this update.



Vincenzo Cirulli, M.D., Ph.D.

Scientific Director, Diabetes Research Connection

Department of Medicine, UW Diabetes Institute

University of Washington

Institute for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine


Alberto Hayek, M.D.

Medical Director, Scripps/Whittier Diabetes Institute

Co-Founder, Diabetes Research Connection


David Winkler

Co-founder, past Chair and current CFO, Diabetes Research Connection

Past Chair, Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute

Past Chair, American Diabetes Association, San Diego Chapter

Type 1 Diabetes Patient for 62 years  


A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes? For One Man, It Seems to Have Worked.

This article, which appeared in the New York Times (NYT) on Saturday, November 27, 2021, provides a promise for achieving a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). Dr. Melton, a brilliant scientist at Harvard, and an inspired father of two T1D patients is credited with overseeing this important effort which built on many past and present researchers’ discoveries.

While we applaud Dr. Melton and his team’s efforts for taking the necessary steps to bring this research to the bed-side, there are some questions that will need to be addressed. It remains to be determined if any issue or side effects will arise over time in some of the 17 patients participating to this initial clinical trial. Patient immunosuppression may be problematic, as it has been the case for some recipients of cadaveric human islet transplants. The long-term survival and function of these stem cell-derived beta cells will also need to be assessed, and design plans to replace them with additional transplants should they fail. Ultimately, the cost of the procedure and required FDA approval will also need to be addressed.

In the year 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article that caused many to believe a cure for T1D had been discovered. The principal investigator, Dr. James Shapiro, initiated what became known as the Edmonton Protocol. This multicenter trial involved transplanting human cadaveric islets. Some issues soon arose: 1) an insufficient supply of islets; 2) failure of the islet transplants to function long-term; 3) complications associated with the site of transplantation into the portal vein of the liver, and 4) side effects caused by the immunosuppression of the recipients.

Undoubtedly, the most significant development since 2000 has been the conversion of pluripotent stem cells into insulin-producing cells to provide an unlimited supply of islet tissue for transplantation in T1D patients.

The need for immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the islet transplants remains an ongoing concern, although these types of drugs, and their regimen protocols have improved considerably since 2000. Notwithstanding, immunosuppression continues to have issues. Better drugs will be needed to ensure that the transplanted islet tissue is not rejected, retains its insulin-producing function over time, and that the recipients’ immune systems is not negatively impacted for its important primary function of fighting off other diseases.

Another approach to avoid rejection of pluripotent stem cell-derived beta cells is to encapsulate them. However, to date, these cells have not prospered in such enclosed environments, because current cell encapsulation technologies do not allow for these beta cells to intimately interact with blood vessels of the host to receive nutrients and oxygen to survive long term while performing their insulin secretory function in response to circulating glucose levels.

In two recent studies just published in peer-reviewed journals (https://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/fulltext/S1934-5909(21)00415-X), Canadian investigators led by Dr. Timothy Kieffer in collaboration with ViaCyte, and by ViaCyte scientists in collaboration with Dr. James Shapiro (https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-medicine/fulltext/S2666-3791(21)00338-4) reported that transplantation of immature stem cell-derived pancreatic islet progenitors in 15 and 17 patients, respectively, produced negligeable, yet detectable levels of human C-peptide production in response to a meal after a year from the day of transplantation. These studies were conducted using devices that allow some level of interaction of the transplanted cells with the patient’s blood vessels, thus requiring immune suppression. The bottom line is that after ~1 year, none of the patients became independent from insulin injections and all required exogenous insulin during the trial.

A possible solution to the problem of allorejection (i.e., immune rejection of “non-self” cells, coming from a different genetic background) may involve the use of a T1D patient’s own cells to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (or iPS), produced through a technique of reprogramming, and then convert these iPS cells into pancreatic beta cells. These “self-cells” may evade rejection by mechanisms of allo-immunity; however, auto-reactive immune cells that caused T1D in the first place in these patients may still target and destroy these newly transplanted beta cells.

San Diego’s ViaCyte is pursuing another potential cure. This company recently announced a collaboration with Crisper, a biotech leader in DNA editing to genetically modify the stem cells to avoid the need for immune therapy post-transplantation.

Ultimately, in order to ensure that all of the above treatments are safe for transplantation in the general population of T1D patients the FDA will require: 1) a careful peer-reviewed analysis of the results on all patients; 2) a long-term assessment of the survival and function of the transplanted cells; 3) evaluation of the long-term effects of immunosuppression; and 4) determination of the acceptability of all side effects.

Collectively, what all of these recent advancements show is that there is much more to be learned before stem cell derived islet tissue can be routinely and safely used for cell replacement therapy in T1D.

Hence, notwithstanding these open questions, substantial progress is being made towards a functional cure for T1D. We must proceed with hope and caution while pursuing additional innovative research.

The DRC is committed to continue supporting innovative basic and translational research by early-career scientists who strive to prevent, find better treatments for, and cure T1D.


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We’re Committed to Eradicating T1D

Five million people are expected to have T1D by 2050 and 40,000 are diagnosed with T1D each year in the U.S. Our Executive Director Karen Hooper discussed DRC’s unique mission in raising research dollars for early-career scientists to develop innovative studies that will lead to the end of T1D. Learn about our commitment to not rest until T1D is eliminated in this recent Spotlight on the Community podcast.

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Diabetes Research Connection Awards $400,000 to Eight Promising T1D Studies as Nation Observes National Diabetes Month

After rigorous review by DRC’s Scientific Review Committee, eight early-career researchers receive seed funding for their work to find the cause, treatment, and cure for T1D

November 08, 2021 04:25 PM Eastern Standard Time

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), a 501(c)(3) that funds research projects conducted by early-career researchers aimed at prevention, cure, and better care for those with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), puts out a call for T1D research in need of seed funding twice a year. After a rigorous review by the DRC Scientific Review Committee (SRC), comprised of T1D experts nationwide, the most promising studies are selected to receive seed funding. The first round of grants for 2021 was recently completed as the nation observes National Diabetes Month. Funds were provided to seven researchers (with an additional study pending contract approvals) totaling a $400,000 investment. Researchers receiving grants include:

“The DRC has filled a niche by providing seed funding to the most promising T1D research being conducted by innovative early-career scientists”

  • Dr. Michael Kalwat – Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
  • Dr. Sudpita Ashe – University California, San Francisco
  • Dr. Balamurugan Dhayalan – Indiana University
  • Dr. Yao Wang – University of California, San Francisco
  • Dr. Yi Wang – University of California, San Francisco
  • Dr. Flavia Pechanha – University of Miami
  • Dr. Madhumita Basu – Nationwide Children’s Hospital
  • Additional study pending contract approvals

Those selected are conducting a variety of T1D studies, ranging from the role of TSA genes in T1D, to preventing and possibly curing T1D by blocking the autoimmune attack of beta cells. Individuals can view the full summary of projects and donate to the research study of their choice.

Alberto Hayek, M.D., a renowned diabetes expert, former Scientific Director at San Diego’s Scripps Whittier Institute for Diabetes, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at UCSD, and DRC board member, notes how far diabetes research has come since the 1960s. Back then, diabetes in children was often viewed as fatal.

Today, continuous glucose monitoring and loop systems automatically sense how much insulin to inject. However, there is still no known cure to the autoimmune disease which 1.6 million Americans are living with today. View DRC’s “Imagine a World Without T1D” video.

“The DRC has filled a niche by providing seed funding to the most promising T1D research being conducted by innovative early-career scientists,” says Hayek. “From graduate students to junior assistant professors – they all have the ability to compete for funding with DRC – even for ‘high risk’ grants, often overlooked by others, that have potential to forever change views or research on T1D.”

To apply for funding, researchers first submit an LOI to be reviewed by DRC’s SRC. If approved, the applicant is invited to submit a grant application. U.S.-based post-doctoral fellows, professors, and instructors whose research is focused on T1D and have not received NIH funding as a Principal Investigator, are eligible to apply. Once a study has been approved by DRC, donors have the opportunity to support a research project of their choice and interact with the researchers themselves via the DRC website.

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