The Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center (VIC) at the MGH is committed to projects that accelerate vaccine and immunotherapy development, including those dedicated to finding improved treatment options for people with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin.
Patients have to manage this disease through careful diet and exercise, as well as daily insulin injections. However, researchers are investigating a potential treatment option of pancreatic islet transplantation, where a patient receives a new set of pancreatic cells that produce insulin. While this is hoped to eliminate the need for the insulin shots, the patient would have to take medications to ensure his or her body did not reject these cells.
VIC currently is working on a new method that may allow islet transplantation without the need for lifelong immunosuppressant drug therapy. This would also eliminate complications associated with these medications. “VIC is excited about this collaboration and the impact it may have in accelerating the development of a broadly applicable cure for Type 1 diabetes,” says Mark Poznansky, MD, PhD, VIC’s founder and director.
To aid in its investigation, VIC recently was awarded $500,000 in funding through a two-year Strategic Research Agreement from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a global organization that supports the most promising opportunities for curing, treating or preventing Type 1 diabetes.
“JDRF’s Strategic Research Agreements were created to provide funding for investigators to address critical gaps and challenges for potential breakthroughs,” says Poznansky. “This partnership between VIC and JDRF scientists aims to help address roadblocks and accelerate JDRF’s mission.”
The work is being led by Poznansky and Tao Chen, MD, research associate at VIC, and in close collaboration with James Markmann, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Transplantation, and David Sachs, MD, director of the Transplantation Biology Research Center.
Read more articles from the 08/03/12 Hotline issue.