December 8, 2021
The UBC Faculty of Medicine is launching Canada’s first JDRF Centre of Excellence in Type 1 diabetes research. The Centre is being established in partnership with JDRF Canada, the largest Canadian charitable funder of Type 1 diabetes research, toward a singular purpose: curing Type 1 diabetes.
More than 300,000 Canadians live with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease that requires patients to inject infusions of insulin and test their blood sugar throughout the day in order to live. Although there is currently no cure, UBC researchers at the Centre hope to change that by bringing new immune and cell therapies to the clinical testing stage within just five years.
Dr. Bruce Verchere
“The JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC will transform Type 1 diabetes research in Canada, sparking new collaborations, removing barriers and accelerating progress toward a cure,” says Dr. Bruce Verchere, professor in the departments of pathology & laboratory medicine and surgery, director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics and Irving K Barber Chair in Diabetes Research at UBC. “I am tremendously proud to be working alongside my colleagues, JDRF Canada and our partners to put an end to Type 1 diabetes within our sights.”
The new Centre will unite the world-leading expertise of UBC researchers and partnerships with industry, health care, government and academia to foster the rapid translation of discoveries into new treatments that could one day lead to a cure.
Co-leads of the Centre include UBC professors Drs. Bruce Verchere, James Johnson, Megan Levings and Francis Lynn, as well as JDRF’s Dr. Sarah Linklater. The team includes researchers, clinicians and scientific staff across three UBC-affiliated sites, including the Life Sciences Institute, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and Vancouver General Hospital. Together, they will drive research projects across three themes—developing new sources of insulin-producing beta cells; protecting beta cells from immune attack; and regulating beta cell stress.
“Launching Canada’s first JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine is a meaningful opportunity for collaboration that will accelerate discovery and innovation toward a cure for Type 1 diabetes,” says Dr. Dermot Kelleher, dean of the faculty of medicine and vice-president of health at UBC. “Our shared vision to prioritize team science will speed up the development of accessible immune therapies that alleviate dependence on insulin and ultimately improve health outcomes for patients.”
“The JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC will transform Type 1 diabetes research in Canada, sparking new collaborations, removing barriers and accelerating progress toward a cure.”
Dr. Bruce Verchere
Type 1 diabetes is caused by dysfunction of both the immune system and pancreatic beta cells, yet these areas are often studied in isolation. The Centre brings together expertise from both domains to integrate the study of the immune system, beta cells and their complex interactions.
In the first study of its kind, a multi-year clinical trial led by UBC researchers demonstrated that a stem cell-based treatment delivered through an implantable device can produce insulin in the human body. The study is an important breakthrough in diabetes treatment that researchers hope will one day eliminate dependence on insulin injections. Learn more.
JDRF Canada has supported Type 1 diabetes research at UBC for decades through conventional research grants. Most recently, a multi-year clinical trial supported by JDRF Canada and other funders demonstrated that a stem cell-based treatment delivered through an implantable device can produce insulin in the human body.
The highly dynamic and collaborative model will allow researchers to drive multiple projects in parallel and quickly pivot to the most promising research.
“The JDRF Centre of Excellence is a unique model that will develop and define new ways of moving research forward and will cultivate future leaders in Type 1 diabetes research,” says Dave Prowten, President and CEO JDRF Canada. “We are extremely excited to partner with this exceptional team because they bring multi-faceted expertise to accelerate the integrated study of the immune system and beta cells and their complex interactions – which we are confident will fuel the path towards a cure.”
The JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC is the first in Canada and among only five Centres worldwide.
This story was based on a news release posted by JDRF Canada.