Monday, April 11, 2011

JDRF New England Chapter's 12th Annual Spring Research Briefing

JDRF's 12th Annual Spring Research Briefing was held on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at the Sheraton Needham Hotel. The information we shared that night was an inspiration and surely proof that our quest for a cure is closer to reality than ever.

We heard from two excellent presenters: Dr. Julia Greenstein, Assistant Vice President of Cure Therapies at JDRF International, and Dr. Mark Atkinson, American Diabetes Association Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida. Dr. Greenstein provided an update on JDRF’s mission and research goals and our commitment to improve the lives of all people with type 1 diabetes today and tomorrow. Dr. Atkinson spoke about the myths that surround the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and introduced nPOD, a Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes, which will help address key questions related to how type 1 diabetes develops.

Following you will find video and slides of the evening’s presentations, as well as video of the question and answer session with our presenters and moderator Marie Schiller of Health Advances, and closing remarks by Gary Savage, JDRF New England Chapter – Bay State Branch Board President. A special thank you to Bentley University students Linh Nguyen, Christiana Pulice, Chace Stewart, and Jillian Weiss, and to their professor Mark Frydenberg, for making this possible!

Julia L. Greenstein, Ph.D. is currently the Assistant Vice President for Cure Therapies at JDRF. The Cure Therapies group consists of the Beta Cell Therapies (replacing or regenerating the cells that produce insulin) and Immune Therapies (reversing or preventing the immune system attack) portfolio at JDRF. She has over 20 years of experience in the corporate biotechnology arena. She was the Chief Executive Officer and President of Immerge BioTherapeutics, Inc., a Novartis Pharma/BioTransplant joint venture, focused on the development of pig xenotransplantation for clinical practice. Prior to that, she has held the roles Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of Research at BioTransplant Incorporated and Vice President of Discovery Research at ImmuLogic Pharmaceutical Corp. Dr. Greenstein serves on the Board of Directors of the MGH Institute of Health Professions and the Mass BioEd Foundation and was on the Board of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and the Massachusetts Society for Medical Research. She received her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Rochester Medical School based on work in the laboratory of Dr. Philippa Marrack. She did postdoctoral training at the University of Rochester Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Greenstein was an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Mark A. Atkinson, Ph.D. is currently the American Diabetes Association Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research at The University of Florida. He also is a member of the Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics at that institution. The author of over 250 publications, Dr. Atkinson is beginning his 27th year of investigation into the field of type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes. Dr. Atkinson has been the recipient of multiple scientific and humanitarian based awards for these efforts. Those include the three most prestigious awards from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The first was the Gerold and Gayla Grodsky award (2001) provided to the outstanding Ph.D. investigating type 1 diabetes. He is also a two-time recipient of the Mary Tyler Moore & S. Robert Levine M.D. award for translational research on type 1 diabetes (2004 and 2008). Finally, he was the recipient of the JDRF’s Rumbough award for service-based contributions to diabetes research (2005). Dr. Atkinson was also a recipient of the highly prestigious Eli Lilly Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the American Diabetes Association (2004), and was recently provided the “Cure Award” by that organization (2009). Throughout his career, he has been active in a leadership service to the type 1 diabetes community, with administrative or advisory service to the JDRF, the ADA, The National Institutes of Health, The Immunology of Diabetes Society, and a variety of other organizations seeking to identify a cure for this disease. Dr. Atkinson is also a past Chair for Medical Science Research at the JDRF wherein he oversaw professional research review of nearly $100M in annual funding (FY 2003-2005). He has served on the state, regional, as well as the national Board of Directors for the ADA, as well as past-memberships on their publications, scientific sessions planning, research review committees. He is currently an Associate Editor of the ADA’s Journal Diabetes, and Chairs two national expert panels seeking renewal of the congressionally awarded, special funding for type 1 diabetes research. Dr. Atkinson is an internationally recognized authority on multiple aspects pertaining to type 1 diabetes, with particular interests in disease prediction and prevention, the role for environment in the initiation of the disease, stem cells and pancreatic regeneration, and the identification of markers of tolerance and immunoregulation. Indeed, from the period of 1991-2002, Thompson Scientific (an organization that tracks scientific citations of researchers) noted that Dr. Atkinson was the fifth most cited authority of over 65,000 investigators in the word in all categories of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. Dr. Atkinson has been the recipient of numerous funding awards, with his program the current recipient of approximately $6.0M in annual extramural funding, and contributes to a total of nearly $15M per year in diabetes-related research funding at his home institution. He is a Charter member of the NIH’s Immune Tolerance Network Scientific Advisory Board as well as TrialNet. Beyond his research accomplishments, Dr. Atkinson is know by many for his spending untold amounts of time with persons either having or caring for those with type 1 diabetes; addressing their questions and sharing his passion and desire to see a cure for the disease. His humanitarian based efforts extend well beyond diabetes; examples of which include his repeated organization of medical/dental mission trips to Haiti (since 1999) and other third world countries, formation of disaster relief teams (e.g., hurricane Katrina), as well as attempts to increase awareness and provide support for international based efforts designed to bring food/medications/education to impoverished nations.