International Team Works to Cure Type 1 Diabetes

One year ago, Sanford Health announced the goal of The Sanford Project is to cure type 1 diabetes via the body’s natural ability to regenerate beta cells. Today, a newly announced team of international researchers is working to find that cure.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease with no cure. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. It often strikes during childhood, makes patients dependent on insulin for life and carries the constant threat of devastating complications.

One year ago, Sanford Health announced the goal of The Sanford Project is to cure type 1 diabetes via the body’s natural ability to regenerate beta cells. Today, a newly announced team of international researchers is working to find that cure.

The Sanford Project Team

A native of Switzerland, Paul Burn, PhD serves as the Todd and Linda Broin Chair for The Sanford Project. Previously, Dr. Burn was Senior Vice President of Research and Development at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) with a background in biotech and big pharma. He has also held positions at various academic institutions and has published more than ninety articles in some of the most prestigious scientific journals. Dr. Burn was trained as a biochemist, cell biologist and molecular biologist and holds a PhD from the Biocenter of the University of Basel, Switzerland.

“I have experience and a proven track record of success in creating and leading project teams and drug discovery, clinical research and development programs that deliver products to the patient,” said Dr. Burn. “My goal is to find a cure for type 1 diabetes and build a diabetes center for Sanford Health that is second to none in the world in delivering cures and patient care to people with diabetes.”

Alexander Rabinovitch, MD joins the team from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Known for his expertise in beta cell regeneration in diabetic patients, Dr. Rabinovitch was recently honored with the Excellence in Clinical Research Award from JDRF.

“Significant advances have been made in our understanding of how the insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed by autoimmunity, resulting in type 1 diabetes. More recently, we have learned how beta cells might be regenerated. The time has come to now translate this information to the clinic, and I look forward to this bench-to-bedside mission of The Sanford Project to cure type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. Rabinovitch.

Alexei Savinov, MD is a highly educated and well-trained immunologist and cellular biologist who comes to Sanford from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in LaJolla, CA. The Russian native has formal training as a medical doctor with doctorate thesis in biochemistry.

“The main area of my expertise is the autoimmune insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes, and the main goal of my studies is to develop novel and effective methods to stop the progression of diabetes, and eventually to cure the disease,” said Dr. Savinov.

Originally from China, Da-Qing Yang, PhD brings to the team his knowledge of cell reprogramming for treating type 1 diabetes. Before joining Sanford Research/USD, Dr. Yang was an Assistant Professor in the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences at the University of South Dakota (USD).

“As one of the first scientists studying diabetes in South Dakota, I have always understood the limitations and barriers that one individual researcher could encounter while searching for a cure to this devastating disease,” said Dr. Yang. “I am very excited to join The Sanford Project team to be able to work with a group of excellent researchers focusing on the study of type 1 diabetes.”