SAN DIEGO - (January 23, 2012) La Jolla Institute scientist Matthias von Herrath, M.D., a world leader in basic research on type 1 diabetes, has long dreamed of seeing his discoveries translated into new therapies to better treat this serious and chronic disorder. Dr. von Herrath may soon get his chance as head of a new translational type 1 diabetes center to be opened in Seattle in 2012 by Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company specializing in diabetes care. Dr. von Herrath will continue to lead his vibrant and renowned research program at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology on a part-time basis.
"We are excited by the opportunities that this dual appointment will provide Dr. von Herrath to take his discoveries to the next level - clinical development," said Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president & chief scientific officer. "As a nonprofit biomedical research institute, our mission is to find the molecular causes of diseases, with the hope that our discoveries will one day be translated into new and better therapies. This is an important step toward that goal."
Dr. Jacob Sten Petersen, Novo Nordisk corporate vice president, said the new translational center will be based on an innovative strategic concept to move early stage discovery projects rapidly from mouse models into small clinical exploration trials in type 1 diabetes patients. "The primary goal of this initiative is to find new, innovative ways to treat people with type 1 diabetes," he said, adding that the Center is planned to open this summer.
The company sought Dr. von Herrath to lead the Center due to his stellar record in type 1 diabetes research. "Dr. von Herrath is generally regarded as one of the top researchers in the world in type 1 diabetes," said Dr. Petersen. "He has made several key advances and is the kind of dedicated, talented researcher that can fuel true innovation in type 1 diabetes treatment." Dr. von Herrath is the recipient of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's prestigious Scholar Award and in 2008 received the Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award from the American Diabetes Association.
The Center will focus on the development of type 1 diabetes immunotherapies, an area where Dr. von Herrath has specialized expertise. "My dream has always been to see the most promising immune-based interventions translated into better treatments for patients with diabetes," he said. "As head of the translational center, I will have an opportunity to pursue this dream, as well as forge new public-private collaborations to access other novel research ideas for potential development into better treatment options for people with type 1 diabetes."
Dr. Kronenberg said Novo Nordisk has the kind of strong biopharmaceutical development infrastructure that is necessary to take discoveries from research laboratories, into human clinical trials, and, if successful, into approved drugs. "By establishing this relationship with Novo Nordisk, Dr. von Herrath is accelerating an important and complementary process that is strongly supported by this Institute; one that moves discoveries toward becoming treatments available to patients," he said. "We are pleased that Dr. von Herrath has entered into this exciting endeavor, while at the same time maintaining his laboratory and research efforts at our Institute. Clearly, this type of arrangement is a win-win for the scientific community and for patients."
Based in Denmark, Novo Nordisk has a longstanding history in type 1 diabetes treatment and markets several drugs for diabetes sufferers worldwide. Globally, about 6,000 people work on the company's research and development activities.
About La Jolla Institute
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn's disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute's research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute's work, visit www.liai.org.