Association’s $1.25-million gift supports diabetes research
Snyder Institute research lab renamed Canadian Diabetes Association Laboratory
The Canadian Diabetes Association has invested $1.25 million in continued support of diabetes research through the Julia McFarlane Chair in Diabetes Research at the University of Calgary, currently held by Dr. Pere Santamaria. Unveiled on November 21, 2012, Santamaria’s lab is now officially the Canadian Diabetes Association Laboratory, Honouring the Diabetes Association Foothills Legacy.
A member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Santamaria studies autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes. Autoimmune diseases are the result of a ‘misunderstanding’ in the body’s immune system. Type 1 diabetes is caused when certain white blood cells (called T cells) mistakenly attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. His research in this area has garnered international recognition.
According to Santamaria, the value of the five-year gift goes beyond furthering basic research and infrastructure. “Hopefully it will lead to the prevention and cure of type 1 diabetes, as well as gain knowledge into implications for other autoimmune diseases,” he says.
Santamaria’s research has identified key molecular switches that control the activation status of beta cell killer white blood cells. The discovery has provided new and important insights into understanding how to stop the immune attack, and has led to the development of his potential therapeutic nanovaccine for the prevention and cure of type 1 diabetes. He is looking forwarded to taking the vaccine into clinical trials within the next few years.
The partnership between the Association and the university is essential to advancing diabetes research towards finding a cure, explains Paul Kubes, PhD, director of the university’s Snyder Institute. “They are a fundamental partner in what we are trying to build here at the university,” he states. “It is the difference between succeeding and not succeeding.”
“Diabetes is an epidemic in our country,” says Dr. Janet Hux, chief scientific advisor for the Canadian Diabetes Association. “Canada plays an important role in the fight against diabetes. Working together with the University of Calgary, we will continue to set the standard for innovative and leading-edge diabetes research while making a difference in the lives of the more than nine million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes.”
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