JDRF & Lilly Canada fund UBC research that could allow people with type 1 diabetes to produce their own insulin

Vancouver, BC, February 6, 2017 – JDRF and Lilly Canada have awarded a post-doctoral fellowship grant of CAN$60,000 to promising researcher Dr. Cara Ellis, a post-doctoral fellow from the University of British Columbia (UBC). The grant will support studies into cell-based therapies, in the hopes of one day finding a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). Dr. Ellis, along with her colleagues in the Tim Kieffer Lab at UBC, has prepared embryonic stem cell-derived islet precursor cells for use in transplant studies under a variety of conditions. The goal is for these cells, once implanted, to mature into fully functional glucose-responsive insulin-producing cells. 

This research aims to address potential challenges related to using devices to protect the cells from immune attack, to make the procedure more widely used and offer advantages over existing techniques. Specifically, Dr. Ellis is focusing on whether implanting these cells under the skin can provide a viable route for administration. “Our goal is to advance the development of a cell-based therapy as a potential cure for type 1 diabetes in the future,” said Dr. Ellis. 

Currently, insulin-producing cells can only be retrieved from deceased donors, limiting the number of people living with T1D who may benefit from the procedure. In contrast, embryonic stem cell-derived insulin-producing cells can be manufactured in virtually unlimited numbers, which could make transplant opportunities more readily available to people with diabetes. 

“We are proud to support research into promising stem cell therapies,” said Dave Prowten, president and chief executive officer at JDRF Canada. “It is our hope that these initiatives will result in more effective and widely available treatments for people living with T1D, ultimately improving their quality of life.”

Human islet cell transplantation has advanced significantly in the last 30 years, now making the procedure quick and remarkably successful. As a result, many transplant recipients have been able to reduce or eliminate insulin injections. Recipients must, however, remain on immunosuppressant drugs.

About Lilly Canada 
Eli Lilly Canada was established in 1938, the result of a research collaboration with scientists at the University of Toronto, which eventually produced the world's first commercially-available insulin. Lilly Canada now employs more than 500 people across the country, working in the areas of oncology, cardiovascular and endocrine disorders, men's and women's health, autoimmunity, neuroscience and diabetes. To learn more about Lilly Canada, please visit us at www.lilly.ca.

About JDRF
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent and eventually cure T1D. As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 18 countries. For more information, please visit jdrf.ca.

About University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia (UBC) is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s entrepreneurial spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. UBC encourages its students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.

Media contact

Sherene Chen-See
National Communications Specialist, JDRF Canada
schensee@jdrf.ca
647.789.2368

Lets turn type one into type none