JDRF Canada and Stem Cell Network announce the first recipient of the J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes

Canada’s Stem Cell Network and JDRF Canada are pleased to announce Dr. Karoliina Tuomela as the inaugural J. Andrew McKee Fellow in Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). The announcement was made today in Vancouver at the Till & McCulloch Meetings, Canada’s premier stem cell and regenerative medicine conference.

The J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes, aims to help accelerate Canadian research, develop talent and enhance Canada’s global leadership in T1D research. The Fellowship Program is named in honour and memory of John Andrew McKee, who was Past President and CEO at JDRF and a long-standing member and Chair of SCN’s Board of Directors. Andrew played a significant role in developing the future of both organizations and believed deeply in the important role of science in making Canada a better place for all.

Dr. Tuomela, who is currently completing post-doctoral research at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, will be joining the JDRF Centre of Excellence at the University of British Columbia for a yearlong Fellowship valued at $60,000 to pursue research focused on treating and curing type 1 diabetes. During her PhD studies at University of Manchester, UK, Dr. Tuomela researched the effects of radiotherapy on immune-cancer cell interactions. Now, under the supervision of Dr. Megan Levings, her research project will focus on the metabolism of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and engineering Tregs to respond better in the pancreatic microenvironment. The goal of Dr. Tuomela’s research is to use Tregs to suppress the autoimmune response in type 1 diabetes, including in the context of stem cell-based therapies as a cure for the condition.

Quick Facts:

  • T1D is an autoimmune disease that affects the daily lives of approximately 300,000 Canadians. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
  • Stem cell therapy holds immense promise for the treatment of people with diabetes, by offering the potential for the body to one day start producing its own insulin again.
  • The J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes, supported by JDRF and SCN will award one yearlong fellowship per year through 2026, with a value of $60,000 CAD per year, for a fellow working at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC. Applications for the 2023 Fellowship is set to open on November 1, 2022.
  • The JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC was established in December 2021 and is exclusively focused on research to cure T1D. 

“We are honoured to partner with JDRF on this unique, national fellowship opportunity. We are equally pleased to name this fellowship program after an important leader and visionary for both the stem cell and JDRF communities. Andrew McKee understood the power and potential of stem cell technologies in the fight against chronic diseases, such as type 1 diabetes. He also knew that cutting-edge advances would come from next generation talent. As such, naming our joint fellowship after Andrew could not be more appropriate and I am thrilled we can do this as part of his legacy.” Cate Murray, President and CEO, Stem Cell Network


“We are pleased to partner with SCN to provide new opportunities for trainees at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC, which alongside its exciting research goals has an outstanding multidisciplinary training program. Andrew was an impactful leader for JDRF, and we are honoured to remember his legacy in naming this award program for him. It is fitting since this will continue to accelerate progress in Canada in regenerative medicine, and help people today and tomorrow living with type 1 diabetes.” Dave Prowten, President and CEO, JDRF Canada


“Andrew held both SCN and JDRF very close to his heart. He would be chuffed by this lovely tribute in his name, however he would say the true honour of this fellowship is the opportunity to encourage and support Postdocs in sharing their expertise. He believed in the power of people. People create change. The recipients of the J. Andrew McKee Fellowship will move Type 1 Diabetes research forward. They will give us hope for the future. That would make him smile.” Shelagh Allen, Partner of the late J. Andrew McKee


“JDRF and SCN are huge networks of researchers, of scientists across the country, across the continent and across the world. Whenever you start bringing scientists together, particularly from different areas of research, there’s so much opportunity for learning and for creating networks that really support research. It’s just fantastic to be working in an area where there’s so much potential to see my research actually make a clinical impact and make an impact that could really change someone’s life from very early years onwards.” Dr. Karoliina Tuomela, inaugural J. Andrew McKee Fellow in Type 1 Diabetes


About the Stem Cell Network: 

The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is a Canadian not-for-profit that supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research; training the next generation of highly qualified personnel; and knowledge mobilization and transfer of stem cell and regenerative medicine research. From the lab to the clinic, SCN’s goal is to power life-saving therapies and technologies through regenerative medicine research for the benefit of all. Created in 2001, with support from the Government of Canada, the Network has grown from a few dozen labs to more than 230 world-class research groups, supporting over 225 research projects and more than 25 clinical trials. Since its inception, over 20 biotech companies have been catalyzed or enhanced and more than 5,000 highly qualified personnel have been trained. In 2021, the Government of Canada demonstrated its continuing trust and support in SCN with an investment of $45 million for the 2022–2025 period.

About JDRF:

JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our goal is to raise funds to support the most advanced international T1D research and progressively remove the impact of this disease from people’s lives – until we achieve a world without it. 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. For more information, please visit jdrf.ca.

Media contact SCN:
Samantha Rae Ayoub
Vice President, Communications & Knowledge Mobilization
Stem Cell Network
[email protected]  

Media contact JDRF:

Michelle van Vliet
National Director Communications and Marketing
Cell: 514-803-0877
[email protected]

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