Michigan Medicine, JDRF to Create $14M Type 1 Diabetes Research Center

Michigan Medicine’s Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute in Ann Arbor is working with JDRF, a New York-based global organization that funds Type 1 diabetes research, to establish the JDRF Center of Excellence.
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Michigan Medicine’s Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute and JDRF are creating the JDRF Center of Excellence to study Type 1 diabetes. // Stock photo

Michigan Medicine’s Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute in Ann Arbor is working with JDRF, a New York-based global organization that funds Type 1 diabetes research, to establish the JDRF Center of Excellence.

The goal of the center is to yield safer day-to-day diabetes management and improved health for people with Type 1 diabetes by developing a comprehensive understanding of T1D metabolism in adolescents, young adults, and people with long-standing T1D.

The center will be funded through a JDRF grant of $7.37 million that will create the center. JDRF plans to raise the money over the next five years, and Michigan Medicine plans to raise at least another $6.5 million to support it.

The Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute studies the biology of beta cells that create insulin, aiming to drive cures for T1D. The new center will expand on existing research on the human metabolism, aiming to address life-threatening T1D complications, including psychosocial issues.

Elizabeth Weiser Caswell, and Ann Arbor resident, and her father, Regent Ron Weiser, have made gifts to launch the project.

Two of Caswell’s three sons, as well as her husband, Trey, have T1D, leading Caswell to become an advocate for people living with the disease and their families. She is an executive committee member of the board of directors of the Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan Chapter of the JDRF.

“Michigan Medicine is the ideal partner for JDRF,” says Caswell, also a research information volunteer and member of the JDRF international board of directors and vice chair of the JDRF research committee. “The pediatric endocrinology team at Michigan has been there for our family very step of the way, advising us on daily care, advances in treatment technologies, and opportunities for clinical research. U-M is asking questions that aren’t being asked. I think the science is so exciting, and there are so many areas where we’re poised for a breakthrough.

T1D is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to break down sugars and get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. Its causes are not entirely understood, but scientists believe both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. The disease is not preventable, and there is no cure.

“This center offers us game-changing possibilities,” says Sanjoy Dutta, vice president of research at JDRF. “Through it, we will be able to accelerate the depth of work already underway, connect to other critical projects, and readily collaborate in ways not previously possible. This center is a partnership of strengths that we know will advance research in meaningful ways and, we all hope, will deliver cures for T1D.”

U-M’s existing Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute is a newly launched initiative that will coordinate and centralize campus resources that work with diabetes. More than 350 scientists are studying diabetes, obesity, and metabolism across U-M.

“The JDRF Center of Excellence and the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute establishes us as one of the premier diabetes centers in the country, and the strongest in the Midwest,” says Dr. Thomas Gardner, principal investigator of the JDRF Center of Excellence and EWCDI. “The work of the COE (center of excellence) will yield safer day-to-day diabetes management programs and improved health for individuals living with T1D. We hope to redefine what diabetes is and use that information to improve the quality of life for people with the disease.”

The new center will work to determine the optimal metabolic environment for restoring beta cell function, determine susceptibility to hypoglycemia with the use of advanced diabetes technologies, identify the risk of chronic complications, and determine the psychological impacts of T1D.

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