Meet our Researchers

Our passionate researchers work collaboratively to leverage knowledge that can accelerate type 1 diabetes (T1D) research as quickly as possible.

Every year, JDRF funds researchers in Canada, and globally with our affiliate partners, whose research aims to either find cures for T1D or improve the lives today for people living with the disease.

Our researchers are passionate about what they do. We work collaboratively with them to leverage their knowledge, creativity and diverse expertise to accelerate our global research strategy, via roadmaps designed to bring us efficiently towards a world without T1D.

Learn more about how our researchers are collaborating on cure research and improving the lives of those people living with T1D

Learn more about the top updates in JDRF funded T1D research for 2020.

Cure Research

Dr. Kathy McCoy (AB) is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, a member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, and director of the International Microbiome Center at the University of Calgary. Her research aims to understand how exposure to intestinal microbes, particularly during early life, educates and regulates the immune system and how this can affect susceptibility to T1D.
Dr. Jayne Danska (ON) holds the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Molecular Medicine and is a professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and a senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children.. She is studying the role of the community of microbes that inhabit the human intestine (the microbiome) in altering risk for, and the progression of, T1D. The ultimate objective of her work is to identify new therapeutics to prevent the disease.
Dr. Heather Denroche (BC) is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia who is currently examining a hormone called islet amyloid polypeptide (IAPP), produced by pancreatic beta cells and released in response to elevated glucose, in order to better understand the role it plays in the loss of beta cells leading to T1D, as well as in transplanted stem cell-derived beta cells.
Dr. Jan Dutz (BC) is an Investigator at BC Children’s Hospital and a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He is leading a phase 2/3 clinical trial testing whether a disease-modifying drug called ustekinumab can slow progression of T1D in young adults recently diagnosed. Ustekinumab – which is already approved to treat psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease – previously showed promise in a JDRF-funded pilot trial conducted by Dr. Dutz and his team.
Dr. James (Jim) Johnson (BC) is professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, and the Department of Surgery at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Johnson is currently examining how an FDA-approved drug called carbamazepine inhibits a specific group of sodium channels in beta cells when they become overactive, and subsequently enhances beta cell survival. Further study of this drug class may lead to the development of a treatment that can prevent beta cell death in people with recently diagnosed T1D, or in people at risk of T1D.
Dr. Timothy Kieffer (BC) is a professor in the Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences and the Department of Surgery at the University of British Columbia. He was one of the first researchers in the world to show that human stem cells can be differentiated into glucose-responsive insulin-producing cells. The procedure he developed set the stage for clinical trials now in progress, and Dr. Kieffer and his team continue to work on refining approaches to cell replacement using this approach. With continued investment, such approaches could one day reduce or eliminate the need for daily insulin injections.
Dr. Gregory Korbutt (AB) is a professor of surgery at the University of Alberta. He is using different techniques to safeguard cells with the goal of developing a more accessible source of insulin-producing tissue for transplantation into patients with T1D. Dr. Korbutt and his team are using their new 3D ‘scaffolding’ technology to make islet transplants more widely available and functional.
Dr. Megan Levings (BC), of the University of British Columbia and BC Children's Hospital Research Institute is one of Canada’s leading immunologists. She holds two JDRF grants: one enables collaboration testing samples from a clinical trial of a drug called ustekinumab [link to blog] to understand how the drugs works in people with T1D. The other is a CIHR-JDRF grant that is applying novel approaches to better understand the causes of T1D and development of cellular therapies to cure the disease.
Dr. Adriana Migliorini (ON) is an Advanced Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University Health Network, working as part of Dr. Nostro’s team researching islet transplantation and universal donor stem cell therapies.
Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro (ON) is a Senior Scientist at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at University Health Network and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. Dr. Nostro holds a JDRF-CIHR grant which supports she and her team to pursue work that will use new transplantation strategies and apply universal donor stem cells to develop a superior islet-like product for people with T1D that will require little or no immunosuppression.
Dr. Andrew Pepper (AB) is an assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Research at the University of Alberta who formerly trained with Dr. James Shapiro. Along with his team, he is examining the underlying mechanisms that govern pancreatic beta cell survival and function, with the ultimate goal of developing islet replacement therapies that could become a universal treatment for a broader range of people living with T1D.
Dr. Rangarajan Sambathkumar (ON) completed his PhD at the University of KU (Leuven, Belgium) where he developed an interest in molecular stem cell biology, developmental biology and cell fate specification related to endoderm and endocrine pancreatic beta cells. Dr. Sambatkhumar’s work involves use of genome engineering approaches to improve approaches for making insulin-producing beta cells from human stem cells, for cell replacement therapy in T1D.
Dr. James Shapiro, (AB) a multi-organ transplant surgeon at the University of Alberta, led the team that developed the Edmonton Protocol in the 1990s, which enabled long-lasting islet transplants in people with T1D and has been taken up by clinical centres around the world. JDRF has supported Dr. Shapiro’s work almost continuously since the 1990s. Currently, JDRF is supporting both preclinical work and clinical trials by Dr. Shapiro, in which his team is testing different approaches for disease modification and cell replacement to cure T1D.
Dr. Kirsten Ward-Hartstonge (BC) is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on the role of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in human diseases such as T1D. She is investigating how Treg number and function may be used as a biomarker to predict how well a patient is going to respond to a treatment.

Dr. Andrew Pepper talks about the cell therapy research he’s working on to make islet transplantation more universal and accessible.

Improving Lives

Dr. Gillian Booth (ON), a JDRF-funded scientist at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions within the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and a team of researchers are aiming to improve glucose control and patient experiences by using a newly developed virtual care approach to optimize the way health care is delivered to people with T1D.
Dr. Joe Cafazzo (ON), is Executive Director of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network, and a Professor at the University of Toronto. He and his team have developed a digital platform called Connect1d that is designed to make research more accessible to people living with T1D, to boost recruitment into Canadian T1D trials, and to provide educational materials. As 80% of JDRF-funded trials are delayed by slow recruitment, the ability of this platform to speed recruitment will be an important accelerator of Canadian T1D research.
Dr. Ahmad Haidar (QC) is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at McGill University. Along with his research team and clinical collaborators, he is conducting clinical trials to test whether a novel dual-hormone (insulin and pramlintide) artificial pancreas can eliminate carb counting and lead to easier management of T1D.
Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret (QC) is an endocrinologist and Vice President, Clinic and Clinical Research and a Professor at the Université de Montréal. at Dr Rabasa-Lhoret and his team hold a CIHR-JDRF grant that has enabled support of the BETTER study, which has established a registry of people living with T1D in Quebec, created a virtual education module aimed at improved prevention and management of hypoglycemia, and run multiple small trials focused on improving hypoglycemia outcomes
Dr. Patrick MacDonald (AB) is Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Alberta, where he has established a human islet biobanking program that now supplies research islets around the world. His group uses electrophysiological and live cell imaging approaches to study cellular excitability, secretory granule trafficking, and membrane fusion. His JDRF-funded work focuses on restoring the function of alpha cells – the cells that make glucagon in the healthy pancreas – in people with T1D to improve glucose regulation.
Dr. Farid Mahmud (ON) is a staff physician in the Department of Endocrinology at The Hospital for Sick Children and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto. He is leading a clinical trial called ATTEMPT that is testing the ability of dapagliflozin, a glucose-lowering drug usually used in type 2 diabetes, to improve glucose control and reduce future risk of complications in teenagers with T1D.
Dr. Bruce Perkins (ON) is a Professor of Medicine and a clinician-scientist at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on cohort studies and clinical trials in diabetes complications and methods to improve blood sugar control in T1D, including adjunct-to-insulin therapies and closed loop systems.
Dr. Tricia Tang (BC) is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine. Her work focuses on developing and evaluating low-cost and sustainable models to improve long-term diabetes-related health outcomes in high-risk and medically underserved patient populations. Recently, she was awarded a JDRF grant to work on the implementation of a virtual care platform called REACHOUT designed to improve mental health for people living with T1D in rural and remote regions of BC.​
Dr. Bruce Verchere (BC) is Professor in UBC Depts of Surgery & Pathology & Laboratory Medicine and Head of the Diabetes Research Program at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. He is a world expert in diabetes and islet cell biology, and holds a JDRF grant focused on developing a biomarker to better predict T1D, its progression, and response to therapy. As there is currently no easy way to measure how beta cells are working in people with T1D, this work has the potential to have a major impact on future trials of new T1D treatments.

Dr. Tricia Tang discusses the importance of taking care of your mental health as a key component of managing type 1 diabetes.

Helping us navigate our research funding priorities, which are shaping T1D research both in Canada and globally, while communicating the latest updates to our donors, supporters and T1D community is our Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Sarah Linklater.

You can help fund the vital work of our researchers. Your support allows us to allocate more dollars towards this research. Donate