(June 2011) Earlier this year, the Diabetes Research Institute and Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) announced a new partnership that will fast-track the best ideas coming out of the labs in Miami and put them into clinical trials at HUMC. This will shorten the path to a cure for those with type 1 diabetes. Heading up the Hackensack-Miami DRI Federation Project are DRI Scientific Director Camillo Ricordi, M.D., and Michael Shapiro, M.D., chief of Organ Transplantation at HUMC.
“There are few other collaborative projects that fully integrate basic, pre-clinical and clinical scientists to increase the rate of progress at which therapeutic solutions for type 1 diabetes can be safely and effectively brought from the bench to the bedside and eventually to a cure,” said Dr. Ricordi.
“Dr. Ricordi wants to find a cure for diabetes, and he doesn’t care how many people are involved in the process or share in the credit,” added Dr. Shapiro. “This collaboration will do great things for diabetes research.”
It is the passionate dedication from behind the scenes that has helped bring these two prestigious facilities to the same table in an effort to eradicate diabetes once and for all. Fueled by the determination of two families and two strong, young women, the resulting alliance, named The Molly and Lindsey Diabetes Research Foundation, is proving that good things come with collaboration.
“We have huge hope and a strong commitment. This is a partnership for the cure of diabetes. That’s it,” stated Nicholas Minicucci, Jr., without falter. He and his wife, Susan, and longtime friends Bonnie Inserra and Larry Inserra, Jr., have forged this alliance in the name of their daughters, Molly Minicucci Phillips and Lindsey Inserra, who have both been battling diabetes since childhood.
“I vowed to do everything in my power to find a cure. That was a promise I made to my mother before she passed away, and I intend to keep,” stated Nick, whose demonstrative voice and unequivocal love of family reveal an undeniable charm.
“I have seen firsthand what great institutions the DRI and HUMC are,” declared Larry Inserra, Jr., vice chairman – Board of Governors, HUMC. “With the knowledge of the quality of the dedication of these scientists, this collaboration will not only benefit our families, but will be beneficial to all who suffer from diabetes.”
“Nick has a generosity of spirit that is truly amazing. I am proud and honored to be a part of this team,” stated Bonnie, who serves on the DRI Foundation’s National Board.
Nick and Susan created The Molly Foundation for Diabetes Research at HUMC after their daughter was diagnosed more than two decades ago at age 9. Nick, CEO of Home Care 24-7 and president of Minicucci & Williams, and Larry, owner of Inserra Supermarkets Inc. in New Jersey, both serve on Hackensack’s Board of Directors. So when Lindsey was diagnosed with type 1 at age 11, the Minicuccis quickly came to the aid of the Inserras, and the two families have been a great support to one another through the years.
“Both of our families have the same passion. We want to – have to – find a cure for this disease,” said Nick.
Now, they are turning their combined commitment to a cure into an indomitable force – newly renamed The Molly and Lindsey Foundation for Diabetes Research – in order to fund the Hackensack-Miami project. The highly-accomplished team at HUMC will be conducting clinical trials on patients with diabetes where the insulin-producing islet cells are implanted in newly-created biohybrid scaffolds, which have been developed at the DRI. Previously, the standard procedure was to implant islets into the liver. During different phases of this project, scientists will also test the long-term viability of these scaffolds along with the co-transplantation of other cells and oxygen promoters which mimic the native environment of the pancreas.
“The challenge is we’re dealing with an auto-immune disease so we have to replace or get cells to regenerate that were destroyed,” Dr. Ricordi explained to dozens of HUMC executives, physicians and healthcare workers recently. “And the key is to do this without a regimen of auto-immune rejection drugs.”
HUMC will be responsible for candidate screenings for the proposed trials, and Dr. Shapiro is hoping to have four patients undergo the procedure early next year. Project teams at both institutions will synergize translational efforts to fully develop and test these novel technologies, working together remotely via Telescience, which allows investigators at the DRI to assist HUMC physicians as if they were in the same room.
For the Minicucci and Inserra families, this collaboration has re-invigorated their hope for a cure.
“When Lindsey was diagnosed, we searched the world for a place that focused on curing the disease, not simply on learning to live with it. We found the DRI,” said Bonnie. “There’s no other center in the world like the Diabetes Research Institute. The DRI team doesn’t keep research to themselves; they are experts who believe in worldwide collaborative science.”
She summed it up simply, “I love everything about our DRI family.”
There are so many generous volunteers who have helped support this fundraising effort. If you would like to get involved, you can participate in the Molly and Lindsey Invitational golf tournament and dinner reception on Monday, September 26, 2011 at White Beeches Golf & Country Club in Haworth, NJ.
Contact: Lauren Schreier