$10 Million from NIH Supports Critical Diabetes Research

September 22, 2017 | by Katie Neith

Niland256x256 Joyce Niland, Ph.D.
Since 2002, City of Hope has been the coordinating center to support the Integrated Islet Distribution Program (IIDP) that provides for the distribution of human islets for biomedical research to diabetes researchers worldwide.
Now, the center has received a five-year renewal grant of more than $10 million for the program from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Joyce Niland, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Diabetes & Cancer Discovery Science within City of Hope’s Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute, and the Edward and Estelle Alexander Chair in Information Sciences, continues as principal investigator of the grant.
Using human pancreatic islets — clusters of cells that are necessary for making and releasing insulin — to conduct fundamental research is regarded as the gold standard for comparative and confirmatory studies that address basic science and clinical questions related to the prevention, treatment and pathophysiology of diabetes. 
Increasingly, the NIH and other review panels require the incorporation of human islet studies into research proposals. However, access to high-quality human islets with well-characterized historical, medical and donor information is a major challenge for diabetes research.  
“The IIDP meets a critical research need by supplying human islets to approved investigators for use in their basic science diabetes research programs,” said Niland, who has been directing the IIDP under various grant mechanisms since 2002. With this renewal, she is joined by Carmella Evans-Molina, M.D., Ph.D., of the Indiana University School of Medicine as her co-principal investigator.
UC4 grants, like the one awarded to Niland and her team, are intended to “support multi-year funded cooperative agreement research with high impact ideas that may lay the foundation for new fields of investigation; accelerate breakthroughs; stimulate early and applied research on cutting-edge technologies; foster new approaches to improve the interactions among multi- and interdisciplinary research teams; or advance the research enterprise in a way that could stimulate future growth and investments and advance public health and health care delivery,” according to the NIH.
Through 15 years of continued coordination of the IIDP at City of Hope, the program has supported over 300 research studies located in 20 countries, via more than 11,000 islet shipments totaling over 232 million islet equivalents. Niland and her team have researched, established and published standardized optimal methods for preserving the islets via robust shipping methods, and an automated web-based algorithm to optimize the placement of these islets with waiting investigators in a fair, unbiased and timely manner.
“We also emphasize fostering new investigators in the field, and diversifying the types of islets, tissues and data available to researchers,” said Niland. “The five-year renewal of this UC4 grant will allow us to continue this critical research resource for diabetes investigators worldwide, thus promoting the next generation of scientific experimentation toward the prevention and treatment of diabetes.”  
To read about more grants awarded in recent months, please click here.

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