Diabetes Research Institute Foundation Receives
$3 Million Gift to Fund COVID-19 Research
The monumental donation will support novel research into the use of stem cells to treat COVID-19-related conditions
By Julie Levin
In an effort to fund timely research during the battle against the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), announced a donation of $3 million to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation (DRIF). The generous gift was made to support research on the use of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells to block the life-threatening lung inflammation that accompanies severe cases of COVID-19.
“For 35 years, North America’s Building Trades Unions’ membership has supported the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, and that longstanding commitment has had a significant impact on our quest for a cure for diabetes,” said DRI Foundation CEO Sean Kramer. “The continued generosity of NABTU’s members over the years has helped fund and develop many clinical trials, including the DRI’s prior research on umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in patients with type 1 diabetes, but today’s gift will truly help all Americans in the midst of this pandemic.”
The mission of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation is to provide funding for the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, which is one of the largest and most comprehensive diabetes research centers in the world. The DRI leads the world in translational research that is focused on restoring natural insulin production in people living with the disease. Researchers have already shown that transplanted islet cells allow patients to live without the need for insulin therapy.
“NABTU and its members are proud to stand behind the work of Dr. Ricordi, the Diabetes Research Institute team, and their partners around the world as they work to find a cure for diabetes and protect the lives of people affected by COVID-19.”
— Sean McGarvey, NABTU president
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mesenchymal stem cell treatments for seriously ill COVID-19 patients as an “expanded access compassionate use.” Since then, an international team led by Camillo Ricordi, M.D., director of the Diabetes Research Institute and Cell Transplant Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, began a 24-patient clinical trial to test the safety and exploratory efficacy of umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells to block lung inflammation association with COVID-19.
“As it has been for decades, whenever we need them, the building trades stand in the breach for their countries and communities,” said Dr. Ricordi, who is also the Stacy Joy Goodman Professor of Surgery, distinguished professor of medicine, and professor of biomedical engineering, and microbiology and immunology at the Miller School. “This generous donation is another example of how this amazing organization leads by example and how leadership and action can make a difference on the path of cures.”
The relationship between DRIF and NABTU began with the Blueprint for Cure in 1984, an unprecedented campaign that supported funding of a state-of-the-art center where scientists would have every tool necessary to conduct research to find a cure for diabetes, a disease afflicting many union members and people worldwide. Through this initiative, the union members funded and built the DRI facility and today, NABTU and its members have donated nearly $60 million to support the DRIF’s efforts.
“NABTU and its members are proud to stand behind the work of Dr. Ricordi, the Diabetes Research Institute team, and their partners around the world as they work to find a cure for diabetes and protect the lives of people affected by COVID-19,” said NABTU President Sean McGarvey. “As COVID-19 cases show severe implications for high-risk individuals and essential workers, Dr. Ricordi’s DRI research is essential to treating patients who are facing this life-threatening virus. Our work doesn’t stop with this $3 million commitment. NABTU and our members have already begun organizing friends and supporters to raise the $30 million Dr. Ricordi says is required to effectively treat the millions of people who need it and who will receive it at no cost to them or their families.”
“The DRIF is grateful for NABTU’s dedication to our mission and cause, and we are especially appreciative of today’s gift,” Kramer added. “With their continued support, a cure is within reach.”
To learn more about DRIF’s mission and research for a cure, visit DiabetesResearch.org.