The Diabetes Research Institute Adds New DRI Federation Members to Help Accelerate Next Steps in Islet Transplantation

Miami, FL (April 11, 2018) – Two state-of-the-art diabetes facilities in Colombia, the District Institute of Science, Biotechnology and Health Innovation of the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá (IDCBIS) and the Fundación Valle del Lili, located in Cali, have recently joined the Diabetes Research Institute’s global alliance of cure-focused research centers, the DRI Federation. Representatives from the two Colombian facilities visited the DRI in early February, followed by a reciprocal visit in March to their centers by DRI scientists, in an effort to exchange ideas on how to extend this advantageous partnership.

“It’s critically important that we collaborate with key institutions worldwide and that the partnership is mutually beneficial. It’s not just that the DRI is helping other centers with our protocol, technology, and expertise. There is also a benefit to us because they can perform more clinical trials and allow access to resources locally that can help us speed the search for a cure,” explained DRI Director Dr. Camillo Ricordi, who traveled to Bogotá and Cali, along with Dr. Diego Correa, who holds a joint appointment as assistant professor of research between the Diabetes Research Institute and the University of Miami’s Department of Orthopaedics.

“When we visited these two facilities, we were greatly surprised by the level of infrastructure, the level of competencies, and the human capital in both of these institutions. For us to conduct clinical trials here in the U.S. it is not only very expensive, but it involves many different steps. Down there we can incorporate the technology that they have, among other advantages, to accelerate the steps toward a cure for type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Correa.

The IDCBIS is a city government-funded entity with an established blood and fetal tissues-derived cells (umbilical cord and cord blood) bank, interested in expanding their activities, specifically in pancreatic islet isolation and processing. The Fundación Valle del Lili is a world-class private hospital with an established organ transplant program and an interest in engaging in establishing a pancreatic islet transplantation program.

According to Drs. Ricordi and Correa, the visit to Colombia was extremely productive.

“We are planning to transfer our protocol, equipment and technology, and expertise to help them help us develop clinical trials both for islet transplantation, for transplantation of other immunomodulatory cells, like mesenchymal stem cells, and for performing trials to halt the progression or reverse autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Ricordi.

Dr. Correa added that the drive to find a cure and to raise the necessary funds to accomplish that goal is very strong in Colombia because the prevalence of type 1 diabetes in South America is quite high. In fact, during their visit, they met with families affected by the disease who are now filled with hope for a cure.

“For me, it’s very special because I am Colombian. I am from Bogotá; I was a trained as a doctor down there, and I migrated 14 years ago to the United States,” said Dr. Correa, a stem cell biologist and an expert in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). “It’s very gratifying going back to my country and seeing the level of development – in technology, in the labs, in the operating rooms, in the people, the surgeons, the ICUs. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Both institutions have signed scientific cooperation agreements and are officially part of the DRI Federation. Through these worldwide partnerships, promising findings in the lab can be applied to patients more quickly than ever before by overcoming the many significant barriers – financial, political, legal, regulatory – that vary by country and prevent real research progress from being made.

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Lauren Schreier

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