Dr. Jonathan Lakey

University of California, Irvine

In August 2008, longtime Islet Sheet collaborator Jonathan R. T. Lakey took a new post at the University of California, Irvine, in Orange County. The university had committed to sponsoring an islet research group, and Dr. Lakey, with his deep background in islet production, was the person to spearhead the effort. Lakey was appointed associate clinical professor and director of research at the UCI Medical Center Department of Surgery, as well as associate professor of biomedical engineering.

Lakey’s move to California simplified the logistics of his collaboration on the Islet Sheet—and the fundraising. UC Irvine had all the clinical, laboratory and analytical capabilities the project needed. Hanuman Medical Foundation promptly stepped in with funding for a program to develop the Islet Sheet in conjunction with UCI. And in July 2009, Islet Medical (then known as Cerco Medical) formalized an arrangement with UCI to sponsor research on the company’s proprietary thin-sheet device.

These events kick-started the project into its current phase of robust development. Says Scott King, “The decision of the University of California to start a world-class islet research group, and to hire professor Lakey to lead it, is the most important reason we are working on the Islet Sheet again.”

In addition to Dr. Lakey, five scientists are working full or part time on the Islet Sheet at UCI. The group is expected to grow as large-animal studies proceed and the need for islets rises.

“Jon is, in the opinion of many, is the best man in the world at islet isolation.”

— Scott R. King, Islet Sheet Medical

Jonathan R. T. Lakey, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Lakey’s primary research direction has been cell and tissue transplantation, with a focus on diabetes and islet transplantation. Dr. Lakey graduated from the University of Alberta and received additional training in Indianapolis and Seattle before returning to establish his research program at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. There his partnership with Dr. James Shapiro led to improved islet isolation techniques and development of the “Edmonton Protocol,” a recognized major advance in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Lakey is now the Director of Research and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of California, Irvine, and Director of the Clinical Islet Program there. He also has served as the chief scientific officer and president for MicroIslet Inc, a public diabetes biotechnology company. He has been awarded numerous research grants and awards for diabetes and transplantation research. He has served on scientific advisory boards for several diabetes biotechnology companies, on regulatory boards establishing safety standards for cell and tissue transplantation in Canada, and on editorial boards of diabetes and transplantation journals.

A sought-after speaker in the field of diabetes, islet transplantation, and regulatory standards for cell and tissue transplantation, Dr. Lakey has been widely published and received numerous honors, including the UC Discovery Award. His team has successfully trained over 40 islet transplant centers worldwide in replicating the Edmonton Protocol. 

About his collaboration with the Islet Sheet Project, Lakey says, “Perhaps the greatest need in the field of islet transplantation is to make the metabolic benefits available to patients with type 1 diabetes without immune suppression. I believe that this technology has great promise for moving towards our goal of islet transplantation without chronic immunosuppresion.”