An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By Katie Neith | August 17, 2017
Joyce Niland Joyce Niland, Ph.D.
Scientists at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope have received over $300,000 from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to support scientific collaborations to fight type 1 diabetes.  
Joyce Niland, Ph.D., the Edward and Estelle Alexander Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Diabetes & Cancer Discovery Science, is the principal investigator on the two-year grant, which is the second consecutive award from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to lend support to the Human Islet Research Network (HIRN). The first grant was obtained in 2015 by Niland.
“The previous grant funded our first three annual Human Islet Research Investigator Meetings and this additional support is a testament to the success of those initial events and the importance of continuing our efforts,” said Niland.
The HIRN is a research collaborative launched in 2014 by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) and coordinated by City of Hope. The goal of the HIRN is to support translational research to understand the progression of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and to develop innovative strategies to prevent or halt it.
The Helmsley grant will help foster learning, collaboration and advancement by supporting opportunities for the sharing of scientific information and the generation of additional joint projects.
HIRN involves five scientific consortia, each focused on a specific biological challenge of T1D, with the aim of understanding how human beta cells are lost due to the disease and discovering innovative strategies to protect and/or replace functional beta cell mass.
The five HIRN research consortia are supported by 27 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, with over 100 investigators in six different countries.
Niland also serves as principal investigator for the HIRN Coordinating Center grant to City of Hope.
Now under her leadership, City of Hope's Department of Diabetes and Cancer Discovery Science has an excellent track record of working productively to promote and support highly collaborative scientific research. The HIRN Annual Investigator Meeting is organized by the HIRN Coordinating Center at City of Hope and led by project manager Layla Rouse, a member of Niland’s team.
Each HIRN consortium consists of a series of projects led by a distinct investigator team, with research funding provided directly by the NIH/NIDDK. Investigator funding is limited to their research, however, and does not include expenses related to the HIRN Annual Investigator Meeting, during which the scientists present their research findings and discuss future research projects and collaborations.
“The awarding of this second Helmsley grant is important to the success of this national diabetes forum, enabling more researchers to attend the scientific sessions, thus increasing opportunities for the exchange of scientific ideas and fostering future type 1 diabetes research collaborations,” says Niland. “In addition, it is particularly crucial to promote the attendance of more junior investigators who benefit greatly from the scientific exchange and mentoring from their senior colleagues, allowing them to present their work in tandem during the three-day sessions. The increased attendance supported by the Helmsley grant will help to ensure opportunities for exchanging research ideas toward the prevention and treatment of type 1 diabetes.”
Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has committed more than $1.8 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Type 1 Diabetes Program is one of the largest private foundation funders of type 1 diabetes-related initiatives. The program partners with a wide range of organizations and institutions to understand the disease, develop better treatments and improve care and access.