Cultivating a cure for type 1 diabetes

JDRF and Lilly Canada fund UHN research on new stem cell therapies aimed at eliminating the need for insulin injections

June 29, 2017, Toronto, ON – JDRF and Lilly Canada have awarded a CAN $60,000 post-doctoral fellowship grant to promising researcher Dr. Yasaman Aghazadeh, from the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto. This grant will support studies into cell-based therapies, in hopes of one day finding a cure for people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Dr. Aghazadeh is working with colleagues in Dr. Cristina Nostro’s laboratory, conducting experiments with cell-based therapies designed to discover how to eliminate the need for insulin injections in the future.

This research involves the cultivation and manipulation of human embryonic stem cells to generate glucose-responsive insulin-producing pancreatic cells. Packaging these bioengineered cells into small devices and transplanting them under the skin may provide an ideal vascular environment, where the cells will receive oxygen and nutrients needed to survive and produce insulin.

“This approach will not only accelerate the development, survival, and functionality of insulin-producing cells,” stated Dr. Aghazadeh, “but also lay the foundation for a novel cellular treatment for type 1 diabetes.”

Recently, results seen from the transplantation of pancreatic progenitors or beta-like cells include recipients being able to reduce the number of insulin injections, or no longer needing insulin.

“It is our hope that this research will identify a practical and clinically relevant procedure to effectively treat diabetes with cells derived from stem cells,” said Dave Prowten, president and CEO, JDRF Canada. “We are pleased to provide assistance for this research, with the hope that it will eventually lead to an effective, more widely available therapeutic procedure for people living with type 1 diabetes.”

The availability of transplantable stem cell-derived pancreatic cells could lead to a treatment option that the majority of people with T1D could access.

About Lilly Canada

Eli Lilly and Company is a global healthcare leader that unites caring with discovery to make life better for people around the world. We were founded more than a century ago by Colonel Eli Lilly, who was committed to creating high quality medicines that meet people’s needs, and today we remain true to that mission in all our work. Lilly employees work to discover and bring life-changing medicines to those who need them, improve the understanding and management of disease, and contribute to our communities through philanthropy and volunteerism. 

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 400 people across the country, working in the areas of oncology, diabetes, autoimmunity, neurodegeneration, and pain. To learn more about Lilly Canada, please visit us at

About University Health Network

University Health Network consists of Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and the Michener Institute of Education. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education, and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine, and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.

About JDRF

JDRF is the leading global organization funding 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. JDRF is the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. For more information, please visit

Media contact
Sherene Chen-See
Marketing Communications Content Strategist, JDRF Canada
[email protected]

Lets turn type one into type none