The Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at the MGH (VIC), has joined with 24 other institutions as part of the first-ever JDRF Encapsulation Consortium in the fight against type 1 diabetes. VIC’s inclusion in the consortium is a result of its groundbreaking development of an encapsulant that overcomes the immunologic rejection of transplanted insulin producing cells.
“Our discovery at VIC marks a significant step forward in the fight against type 1 diabetes. We believe the JDRF consortium will greatly aid this team effort to bring this discovery to patients in need in a safe, effective and rapid manner,” says Mark Poznansky, MD, PhD, director of VIC.
Currently, patients with type 1 diabetes regulate their blood sugar levels with regular injections of insulin. VIC’s life-changing solution could help these patients to achieve insulin independence by allowing the insulin-producing beta cells to be implanted into the body without rejection. VIC’s recent discovery involves a natural protein that can be used to combat immunologic rejection of the islet cells within the encapsulant. Implanted into the patient, the protected islets have the potential to do what they have already done in mouse models: cure diabetes. While the research is only in its beginning stages, VIC’s unique contribution, combined with the strengths and experience of the other 24 members of the JDRF consortium, could change the lives of thousands living with the disease.
The purpose of the JDRF consortium is to support a collaborative group of key players in science, engineering and medicine in their research of encapsulation technology. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a product similar to VIC’s that protects implanted beta cells from the immune system. “JDRF is investing in a diverse portfolio of different approaches and technologies, and we want to continue to build the pipeline of encapsulation technologies,” says Albert Hwa, PhD, senior scientific program manager for beta cell therapies at JDRF.
The consortium has set out an aggressive timeline to meet the goal of establishing insulin independence without chronic immunosuppression in humans. Milestones for each project have been set, and consortium members will interact monthly to discuss their progress and any new developments.