Collaboration Leads to Invaluable Discoveries
JDRF Encapsulation Consortium
In its early phase, encapsulation research was divided, with experts in different disciplines focused on different aspects of the science. JDRF created the Encapsulation Consortium in 2013, jump-starting the field by encouraging collaboration among its 25+ members and shaping a strategy to guide research. The ultimate goal of the Consortium is to develop products that will hide implanted beta cells from the immune system or cause the immune system to accept the cells while also providing an environment in which the cells can function normally. JDRF connects researchers who otherwise would not interact—to get them talking about their projects and provide opportunities for them to work together to overcome the challenges they face. To learn more about this innovative collaboration watch this brief video.
We noticed that biologists were working on one aspect of encapsulation while engineers were working on the materials, but the two groups were working in silos and did not know what the other group was developing.
“We noticed that biologists were working on one aspect of encapsulation while engineers were working on the materials, but the two groups were working in silos and did not know what the other group was developing,” said Albert J. Hwa, Ph.D., Director of Discovery Research at JDRF. “The Consortium also started to bring people together and build a pipeline for the future, with academics and corporate leaders in one room. They are able to talk about potential projects and partnerships.”
According to Dr. Hwa, the Consortium’s success is reflected in several different accomplishments. First, multiple encapsulation technologies are now being tested in active clinical trials. Second, the JDRF Consortium supported significant advances in islet transplantation. For example, Camillo Ricordi, M.D., at the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute has developed a scaffold to protect the beta cells which are being implanted in people with type 1 diabetes. Third, the JDRF Consortium has helped researchers to push early-stage research forward through translational development. Through its collaborative model, the group has improved encapsulation technologies like those designed by Daniel Anderson, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mark C. Poznansky, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Both researchers have moved their encapsulation designs from rodents to large primate trials.
The Consortium has specific objectives for the next few years. The group learned that while immune protection is important to the success of encapsulated cell therapies, it is not the only key factor. Oxygen supply and insulin response kinetics are equally important, and Consortium members are seeking ways to address these considerations in the design of candidate products. JDRF hopes that as new members join the Consortium, new pairings of cell preparations and encapsulation devices will be evaluated to find out which combinations are compatible and most effective. The most promising pairings will be accelerated to translational studies, with clinical testing to follow in the future. For more information or to support JDRF’s Encapsulation research program, please click here.
Why it matters
The JDRF Encapsulation Consortium matters to people and families living with type 1 diabetes because this novel approach will advance research faster than supporting one, single project.
By Emily Howell • JDRF