Read a Q+A with Dr. Richard N. Bergman, PhD, about the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and his work with the Islet Sheet Project. (PDF download)

Some of the Islet Sheet Project team.

Jonathan Lakey and Rick Storrs of Islet Sheet Medical with a poster they presented at the 2011 IPITA meeting in Prague.

The Project Team

“We want to take the technology, collaborate with the best researchers, and get into the lab asap.”

— Scott R. King, founder and CEO, Islet Sheet Medical

Hanuman Medical Foundation believes that thin-sheet biopancreas technology—specifically the Islet Sheet—can transform diabetes treatment. Inventing such a device starts with inspiration and insight, but the work needed to make the Islet Sheet available to patients requires a team with a chain of skills from technical expertise to cellular science to designing research models to managing animal and clinical studies. The Islet Sheet Project team includes some of the very best people in all these areas.

Islet Sheet Medical

Islet Sheet Medical, a San Francisco–based biotechnology company, invented the methods for fabricating the implantable device. Founder Scott R. King, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years, provides dynamic and creative leadership as chief executive. Richard W. Storrs, PhD, coordinates with project researchers and, with chief inventor Randy Dorian, supervises islet sheet fabrication and preparation of the polymers and reagents used to make the sheet.

Lakey Team at UC Irvine

Jonathan R.T. Lakey, PhD, and his research group at University of California, Irvine, have conducted our experiments with small animals and continue to handle the sourcing and preparation of islets for the Islet Sheet. Dr. Lakey, a leader in the clinical islet world, made the islets used in the landmark Edmonton Protocol and has been perfecting his methods over decades. Ultimately we expect islets to be derived from human stem cells, though for now we use islets from pig, dog, and human pancreases to assess the sheets’ safety and efficacy. The participation of Dr. Lakey’s group ensures that the islets are of world-class quality and the islet science is to the highest standards.

Bergman Team at Cedars-Sinai

The third project group in California, conducting the crucial studies with large animals, is led by Richard Bergman, PhD, and Marilyn Ader, PhD—world leaders in diabetes physiology. Professor Bergman literally wrote the book on diabetes physiology, and the standard model of diabetes is named after him. After thirty years at the University of Southern California, Professor Bergman has relocated to the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute in Los Angeles. Among his associates there is Principal Investigator Marilyn Ader, who brings years of experience in clinical and large animal studies of diabetes; she also has studied the neurological basis of obesity.

Large mammals will be implanted and studied at Cedars-Sinai using islet sheets made by Islet Sheet Medical, incorporating islets of Langerhans isolated at UC Irvine. Large-mammal data will lead to clinical trials, which will require further growth of the project team.

The European Connection

Most recently we have been joined by representatives of two major European medical research centers: Paul Johnson of the University of Oxford, UK, and Paul de Vos of the University Medical Center at Groningen, Netherlands. Dr. De Vos is a professor of immunoendocrinology, pathology and medical biology, and one of the world’s leading authorities on bioencapsulation. Dr. Johnson is professor of pediatric surgery and a fellow at Oxford, where he also heads the Islet Transplant Programme. These two distinguished scientists will greatly expand our knowledge base and network of connections in Europe. Both centers are currently participating in laboratory studies to characterize recipient animals’ reactions to Islet Sheets.

Takeaways

  • The Islet Sheet Project has assembled a world-class team of researchers and inventors to take the Islet Sheet bioartificial pancreas to the next level.
  • Most of the team is based in California to facilitate collaboration. New research partners in Europe bring specialized knowledge to evaluate and enhance the work.
  • Hanuman Medical Foundation provides robust funding support.