Integrated Islet Distribution Program

2007 to 2022

Human islets, groups of cells in the pancreas that produce hormones to regulate the body’s blood glucose, are a critical resource for a broad range of diabetes and metabolism research. However, there is a limited supply of these insulin-producing cells available to interested investigators. Human pancreatic islets are an essential research resource required to translate fundamental questions about the pathophysiology of diabetes mellitus to treatment and prevention of this life-threatening disease.
Since 2002, City of Hope has led this vital program of coordinating multiple centers that isolate human islets from cadaveric donors and distribute those tissues equitably to investigators all over the world. Today, these efforts continue through the Integrated Islet Distribution Program (IIDP), funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, led by Joyce Niland, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Diabetes and Cancer Discovery Science, and supported by her team.
There currently are five islet isolation centers subcontracted through the IIDP:
  • Scharp-Lacy Research Institute (Dr. David Scharp, Director)
  • Southern California Islet Cell Resource Center, based at City of Hope
  • University of Miami (Dr. Camillo Ricordi, Director)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Dr. Ali Naji, Director)
  • University of Wisconsin (Dr. Luis Fernandez, Director)
In addition to researchers having access to human islets in an effective and efficient manner as provided by the IIDP, it is imperative that these islets be accompanied with substantial donor data, pre- and post-shipment islet characterization, and statistical evaluation to increase their research value. The IIDP collects pre-shipment islet data from the five islet isolation centers. Beginning in 2017, the IIDP added the Human Islet Phenotyping Program through which post-shipment islets are characterized through multiple assays. These data were released in December 2018 to the research community to aid in the study of human islets.
City of Hope’s Department of Diabetes & Cancer Discovery Science is home to the IIDP, and the grant’s principal investigator is Joyce Niland, Ph.D.

The IIDP Role

The IIDP provides infrastructure, informatics, statistical support and management of processes essential to distributing human islets to researchers pursuing diabetes research studies using human islets.
  • Coordinating islet distribution:

    The IIDP processes applications from investigators worldwide who seek human islets and maintains a database of the investigators approved to receive the islets. The IIDP also developed and manages a unique computerized optimization algorithm that determines how islets will be allocated, to ensure that distribution is equitable.
  • Helping manage the islet supply:

    The IIDP is focused on meeting the evolving needs of the diabetes research community by tracking the supply and demand for human islets, and working with isolation centers to adjust production as needed. With the same focus on the research community’s needs, we act in close collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and an External Scientific Panel which advises the IIDP.
  • Monitoring the quality of islets and standardizing shipment:

    The IIDP collects feedback from investigators and works closely with isolation centers to ensure that high-quality islets are provided to IIDP approved investigators. The Human Islet Phenotyping Program at Vanderbilt, subcontracted to IIDP, provides additional extensive quality and assay data for IIDP approved investigators.
  • Supporting novel new research ideas:
Funded by the JDRF, the IIDP has established the Investigator Award Initiative, through which investigators, new to islet research or those with novel unfunded proposals, may apply to receive up to 100,000 islets free of charge to support their experiments and collect the pilot data needed for peer-review funding applications.

The IIDP Impact

Cumulative figures as of August 2018:

  • 250 million islets distributed worldwide
  • 350 research studies received islets since 2004
  • 640 peer-reviewed publications stem from IIDP islets
For Investigators:
Islets are available by application, requiring approval as well as a subscription fee to underwrite islet production.
For Early-Career Investigators and Those with No Human Islet Experience:
With generous funding from JDRF, the IIDP established the Islet Award Initiative. This grant covers the subscription fee for islets, enabling qualifying scientists to receive islets free of cost.