DRC & Research News

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

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DRC-Funded Scientist Creates New Insulin-Producing Cells to Fight Type 1 Diabetes

Thanks in part to funding from the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), Dr. Kristin Mussar was able to conduct an in-depth study regarding how to stimulate the body’s own cells to create new insulin-producing cells that may help treat type 1 diabetes (T1D). In individuals with T1D, the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells, destroying them and leaving the body unable to effectively regulate blood sugar.

The human body is filled with myeloid cells that all differentiate to help grow, maintain, and repair various organs. When these cells are depleted, it impacts organ health. For instance, lack of insulin-producing cells results in diabetes. However, Dr. Mussar and her team discovered that there is a population of macrophages – white blood cells that recirculate throughout the body constantly monitoring the health status of all tissues – that instruct insulin-producing cells to grow in the perinatal stage of pancreas development. During this period of prolific growth, enough insulin-producing cells are created to support glucose homeostasis throughout one’s life.

Dr. Mussar found that there is a special population of these cells that act as cargos of potent growth factors for the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. If these cells are prevented from entering the pancreas, the growth of insulin-producing cells is arrested and diabetes ensues. This lack of cell growth, as well as cell destruction, are issues that researchers have been trying to remedy through various strategies for treating T1D.

One avenue of treatment that is being explored is finding ways to use the body’s own cells and processes to support insulin production. Current challenges in treatment include the constant monitoring and accurate dosing of insulin, as well as the use of immunosuppressants or other medications to prevent the body from destroying modified cells or specialized therapies. Using the body’s own cells can help reduce risk of immune attack or rejection.

To this effect, Dr. Mussar’s research revealed that there are precursors to these special macrophages that exist within the bone marrow of adults. When these precursors are injected into the blood stream, they are able to signal growth of insulin-producing cells. This discovery raises hopes that, by dispatching these pro-regenerative cells from the bone marrow to injured pancreatic islets, it may be possible to enhance regeneration of insulin-producing cells in individuals with type 1 diabetes. This may in turn help to stabilize blood sugar naturally using the body’s own cells.

The Diabetes Research Connection is proud to have played a role in making Dr. Mussar’s research possible by providing funding that enabled her to continue moving forward with her project and eventually get the results published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Gladitood

Support a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes on Gladitood

Millions of children and adults struggle with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Throughout the month of October, we’ll be raising money to help find a cure on Gladitood, a crowdfunding platform that helps nonprofits raise funds for important causes. This is an exciting opportunity but we need your help

Consider Autumn, a woman in her mid-20s who was diagnosed at the age of nine. Every day she is carefully balancing her blood sugar through painfully pricking her fingers to manage her blood sugar. She’s been hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition where they body produces excess blood acid, which can quickly become fatal if not treated. Diabetes doesn’t just affect her, it affects her family, friends and co-workers too.

We need to raise $5,000 by the end of October.

How Can You Help?

Donate to Diabetes Research Connection on Gladitood. Donating to DRC through Gladitood is easy. Simply visit our campaign page, choose a donation level to the right that you’d like to contribute to, then follow the prompts to donate through Gladitood’s secure platform. In exchange for donating, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of “rewards,” ranging from a Facebook shout-out, to tickets to our Brews and Blood Sugar event, to a Q&A session with a T1D researcher. There is no minimum or maximum donation; donors can contribute as little or as much as they want, and all donations are tax-deductible as DRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Spread the word about our Gladitood campaign! Whether you post about it on Facebook, email it to your contacts or share the link with your co-workers, we’re grateful for everyone who shares our project and helps us raise $5,000 through Gladitood. For those that want to be more involved, Gladitood allows volunteers to create a fundraising page, set a personal fundraising goal, and share their unique URL link with their network in order to raise money on behalf of DRC.

Why Is DRC Raising Money on Gladitood?

Gladitood offers the ability for donors to fundraise on DRC’s behalf by creating and sharing a custom fundraising page with your network of family and friends. Running a project on Gladitood helps spread the word about our mission, just by taking our organization to donors looking for a place to give. The more visibility, the more likely we are to meet our goal and continue to fund innovative, peer-reviewed T1D research.

How Will the Money Raised Through Gladitood be Used?

Donations to the General Fund collected through Gladitood will help early-career scientists get their ideas off the ground by providing funds to conduct peer-reviewed research designed to prevent, cure and treat T1D. The General Fund, after reasonable reserves, may be used to complete funding for research projects that are short of their goal. DRC’s operating costs are kept as low as possible and are targeted to be less than 10% of gross revenue.

Unfortunately, scientific research is expensive. Just consumable supplies needed for a research project can cost $20,000 or more. By raising money that goes directly to the scientists researching T1D, we’re able to ease the financial burden of research and fight for a cure for T1D.

Visit our Gladitood campaign page today to support our T1D research and help us reach our $5,000 goal by the end of October.

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DRC

An Important Talk About The Importance Of Diabetes Awareness

Original article published by The Huffington Post. Click here to read the original article.

National Diabetes Awareness Month is right around the corner, and it brings up the concern regarding how huge of an issue diabetes really is. A spokesperson from Diabetes Research Connection has agreed to answer some questions regarding Type 1 diabetes and the research that is being conducted to understand this autoimmune disease more.

1. Can you tell us a little more about type 1 diabetes; how is it different from type 2?

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a chronic autoimmune disease, like multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. T1D is the result of the human immune system mistaking the body’s beta cells, which produce insulin, for foreign cells and destroys them. These beta cells produce insulin in response to elevated blood sugar levels. A person with T1D must constantly test his or her blood sugar and inject insulin or use an insulin pump to normalize blood glucose levels. Currently, there is no known cure for T1D.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is much more common than T1D. While the causes for T2D aren’t fully understood, excess weight, inactivity, age and genetics contribute to the development of this disease. Patients with T2D make insulin, but their cells can’t respond to it adequately. In some cases, T2D can be controlled by exercise, diet and weight loss.

Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, amputations, nerve damage and other complications. This is why the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) supports research designed to prevent, cure and better the disease.

2. Explain to us what you do to research Type 1 Diabetes.

DRC is a nonprofit organization headquartered in San Diego, California. Established in 2012, DRC’s mission is to connect donors with early-career scientists enabling them to perform peer-reviewed, novel research designed to prevent and cure T1D, minimize its complications and improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Researchers from across the country submit a grant application to members of DRC’s Scientific Review Committee, which is comprised of over 80 of the leading U.S. diabetes experts. Each research proposal is carefully scrutinized for innovation, value and feasibility.

Approved projects receive up to $50,000 in as few as 12 weeks. 100% of funds go directly to each scientist’s lab. To ensure transparency, each investigator provides updates to donors on their project. Final outcomes are posted on DRC’s website. This openness informs the research community of credible, new science. Research redundancy is less likely to occur, resulting in donated and government funds being used more efficiently.

3. There is no cure for Type 1 Diabetes, but do you think that could change anytime soon?

The discovery that insulin injections could treat T1D almost 100 years ago is the seminal finding and access to insulin is a daily necessity for people with this disease. There are a number of current research efforts to improve how external insulin is given in order to most closely control blood glucose levels, andthat is perhaps the most exciting area of medical research in our future. There are also many scientists working on preventing the onset of T1D or curing it after is has developed. Cells that can replace those lost in T1D and T2D are now a reality in several laboratories worldwide. It may be possible to create a new type of beta cell supply derived from stem cells. By using gene splicing, engineered beta cells may avoid rejection by the immune system. This futuristic approach has tremendous potential providing that the protein responsible for the immune attack to beta cells is identified, successfully targeted and silenced. Lastly, these designer cells should perform as intended without adverse side effects. A clinical trial has begun using human beta cells derived from embryonic stem cells and implanted under the skin in protective capsules to avoid their immune rejection.”

4. What are some of the greatest breakthroughs your scientists have had on a project?

Todd Brusko, Ph.D., from the University of Florida, completed his project, “Engineering Immune Cells To Stop Autoimmune Attacks” in December of 2015. The goal of his DRC supported project was to create a technology platform that would enable an optimized Treg cell (a specialized set of white cells that appear to interfere with the immune damage to beta cells) therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. Therefore, Dr. Brusko set out to manufacture biodegradable nanoparticles that would release a Treg growth and survival factor binding to Treg cell surfaces. In animal experiments, his initial data supports the notion of improved engraftment and function. These findings offer critical proof-of-principle data that is closely watched by those with T1D because it addresses an important hurdle that must be overcome for a cure. If successful, this method will increase the number of protective cells which can help prevent further destruction of remaining beta cells.

Kristin Mussar, Ph.D. Candidate, from the University of Washington, completed her project, “Creating New Insulin-Producing Cells To Repair Damaged Pancreas” in August of 2016. In her project, Mussar identified a population of white cells called macrophages residing in the pancreas of newborns that is necessary for islet cells to expand in number as well as to mature into functional insulin-producing cells. Mussar found that a functionally similar population capable of boosting islet proliferation exists in the bone marrow of adult individuals, which suggests that there might be potential for islet repair in adults. The lab Mussar conducts her research in is currently investigating whether this bone marrow population can be used as a cell therapy to enhance the repair process of islet cells in adult mouse models of injury. This project is important because it has identified a different set of white blood cells that may allow the proliferation of insulin producing cells in the pancreas of diabetic patients, offering hope for a cure.

5. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, how will your organization be promoting the Cause?

We’re launching a 30-day matching gift campaign to promote our General Fund. The fund covers program costs that support our research projects, as well as operating expenses. During the Double Your Dollars for Diabetes campaign, DRC will match donations made to the fund (up to $25,000 in matching), and on Giving Tuesday, DRC will quadruple its matching contribution. In addition, we are encourage holiday shoppers to purchase gifts through the AmazonSmile Program and select DRC as their nonprofit of choice to receive a small donation from the online retailer. More information will be available on our website prior to our November 1st launch.

6. Where can people learn more about your research projects?

People can learn more about DRC and our projects by visiting our website at drcsite.wpengine.com. We encourage visitors to join the DRC family by signing up for our monthly newsletter or becoming a donor.

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diabetes research

Get Involved in Innovative Type 1 Diabetes Research

We were established in 2012 by five proponents of diabetes research, and our visionis to support innovative scientific inquiry until type 1 diabetes is eliminated. However, we can’t do it without the valuable contributions from our donors and supporters.

Want to get involved in type 1 diabetes research? Read below to find out how you can make a difference.

Help Fund Type 1 Diabetes Research

Many scientific breakthroughs come from the inventiveness of early-career scientists. Unfortunately, mainstream funding rarely goes to support these innovative researchers, with 97% of funding for type 1 diabetes research going to established scientists. This means that it’s often hard for new diabetes research ideas to get off the ground.

That’s where the Diabetes Research Connection comes in; we grant up to $50,000 to support type 1 diabetes research from early-career scientists.

Consider financially supporting one of the following type 1 diabetes research projects.

Gene-Specific Models and Therapies for Type 1 Diabetes

Multiple genetic factors contribute to type 1 diabetes, but researchers are limited to using mice models with one genetic profile. Jeremy Racine, Ph.D. of The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine is working to create a new mouse model with a genetic blank slate for insertion of relevant HLA gene variants that are related to the development of diabetes. Additionally, he plans to test a therapy that has been specifically designed for a diabetes susceptible gene variation known as HLA-A*0201 (A2.1). Click here to support this project. 

Identify Biomarkers for Susceptibility to Both Type 1 Diabetes and Mental Disorders

Recent studies have found that those with diabetes have a much higher rate of depression, and young people with type 1 diabetes have a much higher rate of suicide than their peers. Agata Jurcyzk, Ph.D., a research instructor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is working to identify genetic signatures in white blood cells that distinguish non-progressor T1D patients and T1D patients that progress to psychiatric illness. Click here to support this project.

Regrowth of Beta Cells with Small Molecule Therapy

Type 1 diabetes develops when beta cells are destroyed and the body can no longer produce enough insulin to convert the sugar we eat into energy. Peter Thompson, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of California San Francisco Diabetes Center, is working to identify new events during the progression to T1D in order to design new interventions that could prevent or reverse the progression to T1D. Click here to support this project. 

Replacement Beta-Cells From An Unexpected Source

A cure for diabetes will involve replacing the insulin-producing beta cells that have been lost due to the disease. Joseph Lancman, Ph.D. of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute is researching to find a way to make in vivo cell lineage reprogramming safe and practical. This will make it possible to convert nearly any cell type into replacement beta cells, without removing them from the body. Click here to support this project.

Participate in Diabetes Research Studies

Diabetes Research Connection is currently partnering with four great research studies, but there are many more type 1 diabetes studies currently taking place. If you would like to get involved in these, consider participating in a type 1 diabetes clinical research study. We suggest checking out Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet.

TrialNet is a network of researchers seeking to prevent, delay or reverse the progression of type 1 diabetes. The organization works with 18 Clinical Centers in the U.S. and across the globe, and also partners with more than 150 medical centers and doctors’ offices.

Studies are available for those recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, as well as those who have relatives with type 1 diabetes who are at a greater risk of developing the disease. You’ll need to participate in a screening to find out if you are eligible to join a TrialNet study.

For more information about type 1 diabetes research, sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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Diabetes Supplies - Bottles

Consequences and Burdens of Type 1 Diabetes in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries

Diabetes is a global epidemic. Just consider the following from the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on diabetes:

-In 2014 the global prevalence of diabetes was estimated to be 9% among adults aged 18+ years
-In 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes
-More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries
-WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030

Most everyone in the U.S. has likely felt the burden of diabetes in one way or the other, but in low and middle income, the burden of diabetes is felt even more strongly, as poor access to health services is coupled with a lack of primary health care education.

A Lack of Money to Treat Diabetes

Though insulin was discovered 95 years ago, children and young people across the world still suffer or die from preventable complications because of a lack of insulin. This is due to limited access to insulin globally, particularly in many parts of the developing world. What’s more, even when insulin is available, many families struggle with the cost of insulin and test strips because the cost is so disproportionate to their average monthly income. As of 2012, 12.7% of people across the world live on less than $2 a day. With an income this limited, many of those afflicted with type 1 diabetes simply can’t afford the medicine they need every day. With around 78,000 children under 15 being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year, the demand for insulin is only increasing.

A Lack of Type 1 Diabetes Education

In addition to poor access to medical supplies in low-income and middle-income countries, education on living with diabetes is severely lacking in developing countries. Without adequate diabetes education and support, living a full, productive and healthy life with diabetes can be nearly impossible. Even with access to insulin, not knowing how to properly manage your diabetes has severe health repercussions.
What’s more, myths about diabetes abound in many developing nations. A study in India, which has the largest number of patients with diabetes and is known as the “Diabetes capital of the world,” found that nearly half of adult patients surveyed believed that diabetes can be cured by herbal treatment and that bitter foods reduce the elevated blood sugar levels. Misconceptions and myths such as these result from insufficient education and awareness about type 1 diabetes, and only serve to increase the economic and public health burdens of diabetes in low-income and middle-income countries.

The Cyclical Challenges of Diabetes

To make matters worse, the problems of diabetes globally aren’t solely a lack of medication and healthcare. Rather, it becomes cyclical, creating a challenge to not just thrive, but survive.

Consider the child who has diabetes but has inadequate access to insulin and test strips, leading to recurring bouts of diabetic ketoacidosis. Because of this, he can’t attend school regularly. By the time he reaches adulthood, his education is severely lacking. This affects his ability to get a job that pays enough to cover the cost of supplies to manage his diabetes in adulthood. In addition to not being able to afford the medical supplies he needs, his lower level of education means that he’s statistically more likely to believe common myths and misconceptions regarding diabetes, making it even harder to manage.

Ultimately, living with diabetes presents unique challenges no matter where you live, but living with type 1 diabetes in low-income and middle-income countries can significantly exacerbate these challenges. This is why the Diabetes Research Connection has made it our mission to support innovative scientific inquiry until diabetes is eliminated across the globe.

To get involved in the global fight against type 1 diabetes, support one of our diabetes research projects.

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DRC Board of Directors

Connecting Donors Directly to Researchers

Original article posted by Charlena Wynn via NC State University’s Philanthropy Journal on November 2, 2015. Click here to read the original article.

DRC Board of Directors
DRC Board of Directors

One out of every hundred Americans has type 1 diabetes (T1D). Millions of children and adults struggle with this autoimmune disease. Yet, funding has decreased for research to prevent, cure, and better manage the disease. Of the funding available, 97% goes to established scientists. Early-career scientists are often the source of radical new ideas but have difficulty finding money to support them, forcing many to leave the field of diabetes research.

The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) created a platform which connects donors directly with early-career scientists, enabling them to logo_vectorperform research designed to prevent and cure T1D, minimize its complications, and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

Scientists submit their projects to a panel of over 80 leading diabetes experts who review it for innovation, feasibility, value, and achievability. As established scientists, DRC’s panel of experts donate their time and expertise to encourage the next generation of diabetes investigators to push the envelope.

The time from application to funding can be as little as 12 weeks, compared to 18 months for many research grants. In 2015, 100% of research funds go directly to the scientists’ lab. To ensure transparency, each researcher provides updates on their project, posting final outcomes on DRC’s website.

Alberto Hayek, M.D., co-founder and president of the Diabetes Research Connection and world-renowned diabetes expert believes that the lack of funding for early, discovery-stage projects is one of the biggest problems in research. “With DRC, we are giving scientists the resources to test and validate research that departs from conventional thinking, because the opportunity to pursue new paths is when and where breakthroughs occur,” says Hayek.

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DRC utilizes the online mechanism called “crowdfunding” because it connects scientists just starting out in their research career directly to the crowd of people seeking solutions to diabetes.

The seed money supporters provide through DRC’s website help ensure that innovative ideas can be pursued. Without this source of funding, the number of researchers in diabetes is certain to decline and a cure will be that more difficult to find.

Dr. Todd Brusko from the University of Florida received $50,000 through DRC to begin working on his project titled, “Can we engineer a patient’s immune cells to stop the autoimmune attack that causes T1D?

“In six months, my project has made remarkable progress. My lab isolated and expanded a rare population of regulatory T cells (Tregs) to a level that we believe may yield therapeutic efficacy. Importantly, the nanoparticle delivery approach appears to be working to sustain the activity of Tregs. This supports the notion that these cells will be functional and help restore balance in the immune system when re-infused into patients with type 1 diabetes,” says Brusko.

Ph.D. candidate, Kristin Mussar, from the University of Washington received $54,000 through DRC to begin working on her project titled, “Creating new insulin-producing cells to repair the damaged pancreas.”

“We are one of the few labs in the United States currently researching macrophages to determine if this type of white blood cell, typically involved in fighting off viruses or colds, may help repair pancreatic beta cells. If successful, my project may lead to finding a molecule or drug that can be given to T1D patients to help them restore their body’s natural ability to produce insulin,” says Mussar.

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DRC was established in 2012 by five tireless proponents of diabetes research. Dr. Alberto Hayek, emeritus professor from the University of California and Scientific Director at Scripps/Whittier Diabetes Institute in San Diego; Doctors Nigel Calcutt and Charles King, diabetes research scientists affiliated with the University of California; David Winkler, an attorney, entrepreneur and venture philanthropist who was diagnosed with T1D at the age of six and Amy Adams, a writer and business owner whose son has lived with T1D for most of his life.

DRC’s goal is to have at least 10 projects actively seeking funds on the website.


 

The Diabetes Research Connection connects donors with early-career scientists enabling them to perform peer-reviewed, novel research designed to prevent and cure type 1 diabetes, minimize its complications and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

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New Crowdfunding Hub to Choose and Follow Your Donations

Written by Mike Hoskins on April 20, 2015 via Healthline

 

Each time I donate to diabetes research in recent years, I get this sinking feeling that I’m throwing money into a bottomless pit, and may never know exactly what my donation is going toward or whether it’s making any difference. I just have to go on faith.

Now a new non-profit called the Diabetes Research Connection aims to change that, by creating an online crowdfunding hub for type 1 diabetes research where you can pinpoint a particular scientist and project to fund, watch your money be assigned to that research, and get regular updates on what’s happening inside the research lab.

Think of it as a Kickstarter orIndiegogo hub set up specifically for diabetes research.

Crowdfunding is of course nothing new in our world; Diabetes Research Connectionwe’ve seen many campaigns to fund the creation of a new product or educational resource, as well as a wave of crowdfunding to help individuals with everything from a visit to D-camp, paying for needed diabetes supplies, or supporting walks or charity efforts. We’ve also reported on another non-profit that aims to act as a consumer watchdog for diabetes donations by publishing independent reports on how organizations are allocating their resources: the Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance (JDCA).

But this new DRC website in unique, in that it creates a kind of one-stop shop for donors to find some T1D research they might be interested in funding and becoming involved with. This seems to come at a critical time, with calls for change in the diabetes research paradigm and more emphasis on transparency from scientists beyond just publishing in scientific journals.

As explained by D-blogger Joshua Levy, the DRC currently has six projects on their site right now, one of which is fully funded, and one being a sort of “internal project” to fund the web site itself. The other projects are all in the process of aiming to raise the the max allowed funding of $50,000,

We looked into the backstory of this new, creative funding effort.

The Origins

The concept was first created about five years ago, the brainchild of endocrinologist and researcher Dr. Alberto Hayek in San Diego, CA, who saw the need to do better in diabetes research funding. He retired a couple of years ago, after a quarter-century of diabetes research at Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute and UCSD.

Hayek says that the level of diabetes research funding in general has dipped in recent years; in today’s dollars the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding much less than it did five years ago, and less than 4% of of the investigators getting money are younger than 40, since most of the money goes toward older, more established scientists.

“I was increasingly aware of how difficult it is for young scientist to get funding in their initial research activities, so I felt that there ought to be a novel way to do so by developing a new source of funding that will connect early career investigators in type 1 diabetes with donors who wanted to be more involved in the research,” Hayek tells us.

He connected with David Winkler, an attorney, real estate investor and VC entrepreneur who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six. Winkler shared his vision of more personalized research funding and the need to help support those early-career scientists who aren’t typically getting support from larger organizations and grant-giving sources. They also brought on fellow UCSD board members and renowned diabetes experts, Dr. Nigel Calcutt and Charles C. “C.C.” King, in those early days; these four now make up the board of directors.

“These four believe there can really be some innovative, breakthrough research from these early-career scientists, but we’re missing that opportunity because of how the funding model is setup,” says DRC executive director Christina Kalberg. “Funding for these younger scientists is scarce in recent years, and as a result they’ve been leaving the field. And that’s alarming. So what we’re trying to do is be innovative to help these early-career researchers who need to get themselves and their research out there for funding, to help them connect with people and get that exposure to hopefully unlock breakthroughs in diabetes.”

Their idea didn’t immediately materialize, though, and although the DRC received official non-profit status in 2012, it wasn’t until November 2014 that it finally launched online. That was a soft-launch, the leaders say, and they are planning a “hard-launch” with more national publicity in late May or early June of 2015 — just in time for the big ADA Scientific Sessions in Boston this year, where the diabetes world sets its sights on diabetes science.

The Connection’s Crowdfunding Model

As of now, the projects listed fall under four categories: Cure, Care, Complications, and Prevention.

Kalberg says the organization would certainly welcome diabetes technology research that would fit into the “care” category, but as of now they haven’t received any projects along those lines, and most fall under the “cure” or “prevention” monikers. A total of five projects (other than the DRC itself) have been submitted, with $120,000 raised so far in total. One project based at the University of Florida studying the autoimmune attack behind T1D has already completely funded at $50,000, the maximum level allowed for the three months a campaign is active online.

The overall goal is to fund at least 10 projects a year, to the tune of $500,000 donated annually.

If a particular project doesn’t get sufficient funding to move ahead, donors can choose to have the money they already donated either be returned to them, or reallocated within the same crowdfunding category to support other projects.

Once a project is funded and the study begins, the scientists send out ongoing updates to donors and answer questions, to give insight into what the money is actually paying for.

“This is very different from what’s out there — we want people to connect with the researchers, to know if research is a success or failure, and what the stumbling blocks may be. We are trying to personalize the research, and want to make this a transparent and very visible process,” Kalberg says.

A Double Peer-Review Process

But, hey: Can we really trust these crowdfunded research projects?

Yes, we’re told, because what’s also unique about DRC is that it has a very large and respected scientific review committee, made up of more than 80 D-experts from across the country and globe. Those individuals review the submitted proposals and decide if they have merit, and then vote on them before sending to the so-called layperson committee made up of patient advocates to “translate” the science-heavy explanations into something that regular folk can better understand.

Current Diabetes Research Projects

A big advantage of this DRC model is that this peer-based scientific review takes just roughly 12 weeks, compared to the six months or a year it can take through bigger organizations and funding mechanisms. Of course, scientists who go through this DRC application and review process can also go on to leverage results from crowdfunded studies to submit applications for larger grants from the ADA, JDRF, and NIH if they choose.

We connected with D-Mom Amy Adams in Chicago, who’s part of the DRC layperson review committee and has a 28-year-old son Matt, diagnosed at age 5. She tells us she had reached out to Dr. Hayek many years ago and they became friends, so the DRC founders in turn reached out to her a couple of years ago to get involved based on that relationship as well as Amy’s long history supporting the JDRF on a national and local level.

“I’ve given my time to other diabetes and non-diabetes organizations in the past, and still do, and while I appreciate them all, I see how the money I’m giving for research is going to party planning and other things that aren’t research,” she said. “This is the first organization where I feel like I am in control and can make the most difference.”

For Adams, a huge advantage of the DRC model is that research results are shared within and beyond the scientific community regardless of whether a project is funded or succeeds.

“The proprietary way of thinking about disease research is outdated, and all the secrecy is limiting our progress,” she said. “I feel strongly that we need to change our focus, to one in which researchers are rewarded for sharing their work.”

Very interesting idea, one that will surely catch on, given many folks’ reservations about donating and then rarely being able to see any tangible impact from our hard-earned dollars. We’re interesting to see the community’s reaction when DRC re-launches just prior to the ADA Scientific Sessions in June. Meanwhile, more and more people will learn the details of this crowdfunding channel from events like the Children with Diabetes Focus on Technology forum in Anaheim, CA, in September.

Hopefully, this does make a difference and inspires more established funding entities to think outside the box and recognize the importance of early-career scientists, as well as the interactive updates we donors really want to see. How great to have a channel to watch our money at work in the research lab!

 

Click here to read the originally published article on Healthline

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