The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation celebrated its commitment to accelerate cure-focused research for type 1 diabetes
By Priyanka Sinha
Photography by Jenny Abreu and CLUTCH Content Partners
Matthias von Herrath, M.D.
o accelerate research and find a permanent, biological cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D), the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation has made an extraordinary commitment of $50 million to support the renowned Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
The Foundation’s transformative generosity will further position the DRI as a global leader in diabetes research and heralds the arrival of world-renowned immunologist, Matthias von Herrath, M.D., as the new scientific director of the DRI.
“The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation’s generosity will continue to propel the University into the upper echelon of institutes dedicated to the discovery and treatment of T1D—not just in South Florida, but worldwide,” said University of Miami President Julio Frenk, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. “We are incredibly grateful for this outstanding commitment, which has the potential to bring us closer to a cure for this devastating disease.”
The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, the fundraising arm of DRI and recognized as one of the world’s foremost diabetes organizations, is one of the largest donors in the University’s history. The DRIF was established in 1971 by a small group of parents whose children were afflicted with type 1 diabetes. The families, who were committed to finding a cure for the autoimmune disease, mobilized to support cure-focused research in type 1 diabetes conducted by the DRI.
Notable Advances in the Search for a Diabetes Cure
Dr. von Herrath brings more than 25 years of dedicated research into diabetes. Twice ranked as the “#1 Juvenile Diabetes Expert” by Expertscape, he received the American Diabetes Association’s outstanding scientific achievement award in 2008, the German Diabetes Society’s Langerhans award in 2014, and a lifetime achievement award from The Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD).
Before coming to the Miller School, he was a professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego. He is also vice president and senior medical officer for Novo Nordisk, Inc., a Danish pharmaceutical company.
“Dr. von Herrath as an innovative leader who will drive the DRI’s collaborative, fast-track approach to advancing cutting-edge disciplines with a real potential to deliver a cure for type 1 diabetes,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “Like the rest of our team, he is committed to the clinical translation of immune-based interventions into leading-edge patient care.”
With DRIF support, DRI will continue focusing on the development of novel therapies and technologies to restore natural insulin production in individuals with T1D. This multi-disciplinary organization brings together scientists, clinicians, and industry partners to advance the understanding and treatment of this complex autoimmune disease.
“It is an honor to witness the extraordinary talent and unwavering commitment of our researchers at the Diabetes Research Institute,” said Michael J. Burton, the CEO of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. “DRIF plays a critical role in supporting the momentum of research leaders like Dr. von Herrath as they tirelessly work towards finding a cure for diabetes. Our commitment will accelerate groundbreaking research and bring hope to millions of families affected by this disease.”
Dr. von Herrath’s Landmark Achievements
A native of Germany, Dr. von Herrath earned his medical degree in 1988 from Freiburg Medical School, where he also completed a Ph.D.-equivalent thesis on biochemistry. His postdoctoral training included an intensive care residency at Diakonie Hospital, Freiburg; a fellowship in medicine/immunology at Freiburg Medical Center; and a fellowship in virology at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.
Dr. von Herrath joined Scripps Research Institute in 1995 as a senior research associate, became assistant and associate professor in 1996, and founded the Type 1 Diabetes Center at La Jolla Institute for Immunology to help patients with the disease.
“I got into type 1 diabetes research because I really thought it might be a problem that we can tackle in our lifetime,” he said.
For more than a decade, Dr. von Herrath has been principal investigator for a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, and recently received another NIH research grant for a breakthrough diabetes study.
In 2012 he joined Novo Nordisk, building up their Seattle T1D research and development center to advance promising therapies to the clinic. He is currently a member of the company’s global chief medical office team.
From 2016 to 2017, Dr. von Herrath was the group principal investigator for a Miller School study to support the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes and its strategy to use team science and human samples to understand the causes and development of type 1 diabetes. The study was funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust and received The George S. Eisenbarth nPOD Award for Team Science.
“Matthias’ unparalleled research achievements in diabetes are globally recognized,” said Roy E. Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Distinguished Chair in Medicine, Rabbi Morris I. Esformes Endowed Chair in Medicine and Endocrinology, professor, and chair of the Miller School Department of Medicine. “He is perfectly positioned to amplify our current advancements and leverage our rich translational research towards finding the cure for type 1 diabetes.”
The DRI’s research encompasses several key areas, including islet transplantation, immunotherapy, regenerative medicine, and stem cell-based therapies.
“These diverse strategies aim to restore insulin production, protect newly generated insulin-producing cells, and address the underlying autoimmune response responsible for T1D,” said Dr. von Herrath. “Thanks to DRIF, we can strengthen our international collaborations, accelerate progress towards a cure, and improve the quality of life for millions of people with T1D worldwide.”