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News Release

Joslin Receives $1 Million to Support Type 1 Diabetes Research

Gift from Thomas J. Beatson, Jr. Foundation to support four Joslin labs

BOSTON – Jan. 8, 2009 – Joslin Diabetes Center today announced it has received a $1 million gift from the Thomas J. Beatson, Jr. Foundation to support type 1 diabetes research.

The donation will be split evenly between the labs of Joslin researchers T. Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D.; George L. King, M.D.; Gordon C. Weir, M.D., and Howard A. Wolpert, M.D.  Each lab will receive $250,000 over two years.

Click here for WBZ-AM coverage of this gift.

“Joslin is incredibly grateful that Mr. Beatson, through the Thomas J. Beatson, Jr. Foundation, chose to support these important areas of type 1 diabetes research,” said Ranch C. Kimball, President and CEO of Joslin Diabetes Center.  “The generosity of individuals and philanthropic foundations is critical to Joslin’s mission and research efforts to combat type 1 diabetes, which impacts millions of children and adults.”

In a 2005 interview, Beatson, who is a resident of Phoenix, AZ and also a Joslin Medalist for living with type 1 diabetes for 50 or more years, explained his motivation for his continued support of Joslin, "The quality and interest of the physicians in coming up with the right answer, not just coming up with something that may help, is what stands out about Joslin."

For this latest gift, Mr. Beatson asked each of the investigators to present him with compelling research proposals. Inspired by all four, he decided to help fund each.  The studies represent the broad and deep range of bench and clinical research undertaken at the Joslin to prevent and cure type 1 diabetes, and to improve patient outcomes for those with the disease.  

Research led by T. Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D., will study mechanisms that allow cells to maintain a state ("pluripotent") that enables them to become a variety of cell types, including beta cells. The long-term goal is to apply this knowledge to induced-pluripotent stem cells from patients in hopes of deriving new beta cells for transplantation from these cells.  Dr. Blackwell’s overall research focuses on how the developmental potential of stem cells might be harnessed to provide regenerative therapies for diabetes.

The lab led by George L. King, M.D., Director of Research at Joslin, will apply the funds to the Joslin Medalist Study, which Dr. King launched in April 2005 through previous funding from the Thomas J. Beatson, Jr. Foundation to identify physiological, clinical, genetic and other factors shared by Joslin Medalists.  The lab will work to substantiate earlier findings from the study, which found that a significant number of the Medalists have residual insulin-producing ability. In addition, Dr. King and his team will develop data to support their hypothesis that it may be possible to improve metabolic regulation by inducing the proliferation of a patient's own pancreatic cells in people who have lived with diabetes for more than 15 years. 

Research led by Gordon C. Weir, M.D., will uncover the process by which pancreatic precursor cells derived from embryonic stem cells and other sources mature into beta cells when transplanted into mice.  Dr. Weir and his lab focus on basic and clinical research to identify sources of insulin-producing islet cells and to devise methods to protect transplanted cells from being destroyed by autoimmunity or transplant rejection.

A team led by Howard A. Wolpert, M.D., will develop software to analyze continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) data that incorporates pattern recognition algorithms; identifies problem areas, such as recurrent hypoglycemia, hyperglycemic burden and high rate of change post-meal that point to a need for therapy adjustments; and determines if the alarms of CGM devices are set optimally to detect frequent out-of-target glucose measurements.  Dr. Wolpert is an acknowledged world leader in the introduction of new technologies into diabetes care and improving patient adherence to treatment.

“Mr. Beatson is a long-time friend of the Joslin,” said Michael P. Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Development.  “He is a model donor and we are thankful for his continued generosity and commitment to our mission to cure diabetes.”