Leading with vision and passionate commitment, Camillo Ricordi, M.D., director of the Diabetes Research Institute, has devoted his life’s work toward finding a cure for diabetes. Acknowledged by his peers as one of the world’s top scientists in cure-focused diabetes research and cell transplantation, Dr. Ricordi is well-known for inventing the machine that makes islet transplantation possible.
Today, Dr. Ricordi and his team at the DRI, together with partners around the world that are part of the DRI Federation, are combining a multidisciplinary approach to create a DRI BioHub, an integrated mini organ that mimics the native pancreas and restores natural insulin production in diabetes patients. Dr. Ricordi anticipates some pilot clinical trials to begin in 2014 and states,
“We are putting the pieces of the puzzle together to replace the pancreas.”
Throughout his tenure, he has personally contributed more than $1 million to support the DRI’s research program and just recently pledged another $500,000 as a result of becoming the newly-appointed president of the Ri.MED Fondazione in Palermo, Italy.
“After attending the presidential installation board meeting for the Ri.MED Foundation, I am happy to report that I will be donating my compensation as president to the DRI Foundation,” said Dr. Ricordi, whose gift is the total of the honorarium he will receive for serving in this position over the next five years.
“I’m hoping that others may possibly match this gift in support of the DRI BioHub,” Dr. Ricordi stated in an email that he sent to National Board Chairman Harold Doran, among others. Without hesitation, Harold and his wife, Kelly, soon after announced that they would gladly match Dr. Ricordi’s contribution.
“When I received Dr. Ricordi’s email indicating that he was going to donate money to further the collaborative research that is being done at the DRI, I was excited and humbled. Excited that since he was willing to make such a financial commitment at this time, the research must be ready to make a quantum leap–which I think it is.” Harold continued, “And humbled that he chose to endow this organization to such a degree financially, when he has already invested 20 years of his time and talent in it.
He is not only a world class scientist; he’s a world class guy.”
From there, the wave of good news continued to swell. National board member Bonnie Inserra and Larry Inserra of Inserra Supermarkets, Inc. and their family announced an extraordinary gift of $2 million.
“In an effort to honor the DRI’s accomplishments and their unwavering commitment to a biological cure, our family has followed the generous initiative of Dr. Camillo Ricordi. We will continue to support the DRI’s incomparable work to create the DRI BioHub,” stated Bonnie, who serves as secretary of the National Board.
“Each and every time I go into the labs, I learn more about the scientists’ skills, their innovative projects and unique approach to accelerating cure-focused research. I leave there more energized with renewed hope and faith, knowing that these brilliant scientists are working for that cure,” said Bonnie, who is often at the Institute accompanying new supporters. For the Inserra family, their commitment to a cure is deeply personal.
“When our daughter, Lindsey, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 18 years ago, our family decided we needed to start searching for a cure. We looked the world over for the best researchers we could find who wanted to CURE this insidious, merciless disease.” She continued,
“When we discovered the DRI, we realized that we had found what we were looking for and even more than we had dared to hope.
The passion, collaboration and devotion of every one of the people we met at the DRI were apparent. Nothing was going to stop them from finding a cure.”
Another National Board member, William J. Fishlinger, treasurer, echoed Bonnie’s sentiments.
“We’ve been supporting the DRI for a long time. Our daughter, Alexandra, was diagnosed at age 6, 20 years ago,” said Bill, who is the chairman and CEO of Wright Risk Management Company, Inc. and WRM Holdings, as well as senior and controlling partner of a New York law firm.
Along with his wife, Joan, the couple contributed an additional $250,000 to support this exciting initiative. “In my mind, the DRI BioHub presents the best opportunity for a cure for type 1 diabetes. And as part of the leadership of the DRI Foundation, I think it’s important to show our commitment to the mission.”
Other members of the National Board have increased their support for research, as well.
“My family and I are fully committed to helping the DRI because we know it is the best place to support if you want to find a cure,” stated Piero Gandini of Bovezzo, Italy, who serves as president and CEO of FLOS, an international lighting company known for changing the concept of illumination. He is also the deputy chairman of Sostegno 70, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Milan that provides aid to children and families at the onset of the disease. The Gandinis made a $250,000 gift to fund additional research. “The news about the BioHub is very exciting. It was a natural reaction to make a contribution at this time to support it.”
The father of Chiara, who was diagnosed at 1 and is now 15, Piero explained that families affected by diabetes are very anxious to see an end to this disease, particularly when they feel they have been waiting for a cure for so long. He continued, “All of sudden, something that seemed to be in the clouds before is now something we can really feel on the ground. DRI scientists have one goal—to find a cure for diabetes. I know when I speak to them that they are committed to that goal…it’s in their eyes and in their voices.”
National Board members Esther and Marc S. Goodman and Ken Shewer, along with his wife Susan Winberg, established the Stacy Joy Goodman Memorial Foundation in 1994 after Marc’s daughter lost her battle with type 1 diabetes at the age of 17. Its mandate is to raise funds to help find a cure, and the DRI is the primary recipient of its funding. Ken, Esther, and Marc have served on the National Board since 1999, and Marc was chairman from 2003-2007. They have been closely watching over the scientific advancements made at the DRI and are more enthusiastic than ever before.
“The science has progressed to a place we only dreamed about years ago,” said Marc, speaking on behalf of the Stacy Joy Goodman Memorial Foundation, which recently made a $250,000 contribution toward the DRI BioHub. “We’ve always been behind the work of the Diabetes Research Institute, but now more than ever, we truly believe the approach and the groundbreaking strategy behind the BioHub could be the answer we’ve all been waiting for.”
With the leadership of this organization putting their financial support behind this platform, Harold articulated his optimism and thanks. “I hope their generosity will induce other stakeholders to join us in this campaign as we move to shorten the timeline for the cure. These gifts represent the faith that our board members, who have the vantage point of hearing directly from the scientists, have in the exciting and promising science that is going on now at the DRI,” he said.
In response to Harold’s call for action, another National Board member, Glenn Kleiman, made a generous donation to support the research most recently. Along with his wife, Gisela, they will stop at nothing until the DRI finds a cure for their daughter, Alison, as well as Glenn’s brother, Gary Kleiman, DRI’s senior director of medical development.
Glenn summed it up best, “I’ve never been more optimistic about the DRI’s research. Several elements of the BioHub are nearing clinical trials. I’m proud and excited to be a part of this.”
As the momentum continues, hope for a cure is quickly feeling more real than ever before. Join the effort! Learn more at: DiabetesResearch.org/BioHub