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June 6, 2017

UVA Expanding Its Worldwide Diabetes Research and Care Model

Artificial pancreas developed at UVA for the treatment of type 1 diabetes

Building on its pioneering work to better control type 1 diabetes, the University of Virginia Center for Diabetes Technology is using new UVA investment and four new team members to seek better treatments. They also plan to expand their efforts, combining their team’s research and clinical expertise with a network of knowledge from across UVA Health System to improve treatments and outcomes for patients with type 2 diabetes.

“The support from UVA has enabled us to add four new team members who were attracted by our goal of optimally treating and eventually curing type 1 diabetes,” said Boris Kovatchev, PhD, the center’s director.

UVA Investment Sparks Wider Focus on Diabetes Care, Research

Expanding on its development of the artificial pancreas – designed to automatically monitor and regulate blood-sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes – the center is part of a broader effort at UVA to screen, control and eliminate type 1 diabetes in Virginia. The Virginia Precision Individualized Medicine for Diabetes (PrIMeD) Project has received $16.9 million from UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund to:

  • Perform genetic screening of all children under age 5 in Virginia to determine their risk for type 1 diabetes.
  • Provide computerized approaches to produce customized treatments for each type 1 diabetes patient.
  • Develop immunotherapies to treat type 1 diabetes, including improvements to islet cell transplants and production of pancreatic beta cells from stem cells to restore the body’s ability to make insulin.

New Team Members Bring Additional Skills, Support

UVA’s investment in the PrIMeD Project has been the catalyst for adding four new team members at the Center for Diabetes Technology.

Endocrinologists Ananda Basu, MBBS, MD, and Rita Basu, MD, will join UVA in August from Mayo Clinic. They have both worked on developing advanced treatments for diabetes, as well as using state-of-the-art methods they pioneered to investigate abnormal carbohydrate metabolism in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Rita Basu will also continue her research into the physiology of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes, while Ananda Basu will establish and lead a diabetes technology clinic at UVA, merging the research and engineering expertise of the center with patient care.

“We want to provide state-of-the-art technology to all patients with diabetes under one roof,” Ananda Basu said.

If outcomes from the ongoing pivotal clinical trials of the artificial pancreas are successful, Basu said, “there is nothing stopping us down the line from making the artificial pancreas available for people with type 2 diabetes that require insulin,” he said.

Also affiliated with the UVA Center for Diabetes Technology is Jose Oberholzer, MD, who joined UVA in March as director of the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center. Oberholzer is the founder and director of the Chicago Diabetes Project, which is seeking a cure for type 1 diabetes through islet cell transplants. Oberholzer will explore new bioartificial treatments for type 1 diabetes that combine technology with islet cell transplantation.

The fourth new member of the center is Chief Operating Officer Harry Mitchell, who has served as vice president of technology innovation at Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard University and was co-founder of the Joslin Institute for Technology Translation.

Mitchell will support the expansion of operations and the widening of the center’s efforts to tackle type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes, along with additional focus on prevention. To help make that happen, he will seek to expand the center’s reach through connections with UVA-affiliated healthcare centers as well as partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, healthcare providers and insurers.

“How do we improve care and reduce costs? Our plan is to expand the use of diabetes technology throughout Virginia and introduce a diabetes care model that we can export elsewhere,” he said.

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