Friday, July 10, 2015

Caring Causes: Diabetes Research Foundation

One out of every hundred Americans has type 1 diabetes. Millions of children and adults struggle with this autoimmune disease. Despite these numbers, funding has decreased for research to prevent, cure, and better manage the disease. Of the funding available, 97% goes to established scientists with conventional projects. Scientists starting out in diabetes research, also known as early-career scientists, have a difficult time finding money to support their innovative ideas.
 
Considering Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity at the age of 26, Frederick Sanger determined the structure of insulin at age 34, and Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of the DNA molecule at age 37 - just imagine our world today if these scientists had not received funding for their research?

 
DRC created a platform connecting donors directly with early-career scientists throughout the country, enabling them to perform research designed to prevent and cure type 1 diabetes, minimize its complications, and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease. 

 
Early-career scientists from across the country submit their projects and a panel of more than 80 of the leading diabetes experts review it for innovation, feasibility, value, and achievability. As established scientists, DRC's panel of experts donate their time and expertise to encourage the next generation of diabetes investigators to push the envelope. 

 
The time from application to funding can be as little as 12 weeks, compared to over a year for many research grants, and 100% of research funds go directly to the scientists in 2015. To ensure transparency, each researcher provides updates on their project, posting final outcomes on DRC's website.

 
Dr. Todd Brusko from the University of Florida successfully funded hi
s project through DRC. He received $50,000 to begin working on his project titled, "Can we engineer a patient's immune cells to stop the autoimmune attack that causes type 1 diabetes?”

For more information on the remarkable work being done at the Diabetes Research Connection, please visit the website at: www.diabetesresearchconnection.org, or connect with them on Twitter @DiabetesRsrch or Facebook.com/DiabetesResearchConnection.

I had a chance to interview Christina Kalberg, MBA, Executive Director of DRC to learn more.

How did the DRC get started?  
DRC was established in 2012 by five tireless proponents of diabetes research. Dr. Alberto Hayek, emeritus professor from the University of California and Scientific Director at Scripps/Whittier Diabetes Institute in San Diego; Doctors Nigel Calcutt and Charles King, diabetes research scientists affiliated with the University of California, David Winkler, an attorney, entrepreneur and venture philanthropist who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, Amy Adams, a writer and business owner whose son has lived with type 1 diabetes for most of his life, and Brendan Ahern, a type 1 diabetic since the age of 10, born and raised in La Jolla, CA, works in agribusiness, is an investor and public speaker, and a former D-1 inside linebacker at SMU in Dallas, TX.
 
In addition, we have a Scientific Review Committee, comprised of 80+ diabetes experts from across the country, who review each project for novelty and scientific merit.
 
Why is their research so important?  
The support that DRC offers to early career scientists in type 1 diabetes (T1D) is important because it helps to maintain an open pipeline to the new generation of diabetes investigators facing tough funding perspectives nowadays. Our innovative peer-review process assures that the experiments proposed target concepts that are scientifically valid and, if successful liable to lead to potential new therapies or preventative measures to eradicate T1D.
 
What are some recent developments in diabetes research?  
 Important new developments in relation to cell therapies for T1D are the development of protocols to take stem cells to insulin producing cells and more recently the methods applied to have the newly created insulin producing cells behave in ways that mimic our own cells in the pancreas. The opportunity to do this reprogramming skin cells is exciting and of much interest in the field of cell transplantation.

Why crowdfunding? 
DRC utilizes the online mechanism called “crowdfunding” because it connects scientists just starting out in their research career directly to the crowd of people seeking solutions to diabetes. The seed money supporters provide through DRC’s website will help ensure that innovative ideas can be pursued. Without this source of funding, the number of researchers in diabetes is certain to decline and a cure will be that more difficult to find. 

What happens when a project is not funded? 
Wherever possible, DRC may supplement up to 20% of funding for projects that have raised some, but not all of the money they need for their project. In the event the organization has no discretionary funding available, the Board will work with the researcher in an effort to modify the project and budget and still achieve important results. If a project cannot be fully funded after exhausting all options, we will re-allocate the funds to other projects or to our General Fund. 

What can people do to help? 
On our website you can... Support a Project, Submit a Project, learn more about our Scientific Review Committee, view our Video, and get the latest News about diabetes research and our organization.

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