The unique concept behind the new center is to pursue a translational research approach characterised by combining basic research and early proof-of-concept trials under one umbrella. This will give the new center the necessary scientific foundation to move early-stage discovery projects rapidly from animal models into small clinical exploratory trials in type 1 diabetes.
In the past decade, type 2 diabetes has been the main focus among diabetes researchers and pharmaceutical companies because of the dramatic rise in the number of people living with the disease. Type 1 diabetes is a different disease that requires life-saving treatment with insulin. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of major scientific progress in this area in recent years.
"Novo Nordisk has been passionate about helping people fight diabetes since the company was founded, and it is our mission to take type 1 diabetes research to the next level. With the new type 1 diabetes R&D center, we hope to accelerate the process of finding new, innovative ways of treating people with this disease. Our vision is to prevent, treat and ultimately cure diabetes," says Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, executive vice president and chief science officer at Novo Nordisk.
Matthias von Herrath, MD, has accepted the position as head of the new diabetes research centre. He is a world-renowned researcher in auto-immune diseases and he received the American Diabetes Association Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008.
"My dream has always been to see some of the treatments that my and other research teams have tested in animal models translated into better treatments for type 1 diabetes. As head of the research center, I hope to pursue this dream, while also forging new public–private collaborations within this field," says Matthias von Herrath.
Matthias von Herrath currently holds the position as director of the Center for Type 1 Diabetes Research at La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. He has been with the institute since 2001 and will continue to hold a part-time faculty position there. Dr von Herrath also serves as president of both the Immunology of Diabetes Society (IDS) and the Clinical Immunology Society (CIS).
The Novo Nordisk Type 1 Diabetes R&D Center is planned to open this summer with about 20 researchers supported by corporate functions in US and Denmark. The new centre will be located on the same premises as the Novo Nordisk Inflammation Research Center in Seattle in order to foster natural research synergies between the two sites.
Globally, about 6,000 employees worldwide are involved in research and development activities in Novo Nordisk. Novo Nordisk has research facilities in Måløv (Denmark), Beijing and Seattle.
There are two kinds of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In International Diabetes Federation’s 5th edition of the Diabetes Atlas it is estimated that 366 million people were living with diabetes in 2011. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5–10% of the total worldwide population with diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called insulin-dependent, immune-mediated or juvenile-onset diabetes. It is caused by an auto-immune reaction where the body’s defence system attacks its own insulin-producing cells. The reason why this occurs is not fully understood. People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin. The disease can affect people of any age, but usually occurs in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin every day in order to control the levels of glucose in their blood. If people with type 1 diabetes do not have access to insulin, they will die.