A Life-Changing Treatment for Diabetes

For more than ten years, UVA’s LaunchPad for Diabetes Innovation has seeded novel ideas and fueled groundbreaking research. What started as one man’s vision to help the 30 million Americans struggling to manage their diabetes has now sparked a total of 36 very promising research projects across 22 academic departments, from medicine to engineering.

Just ask Chloe Jarrat, an active nine-year-old who has type 1 diabetes. As part of a weeklong LaunchPad-funded clinical trial, researchers outfitted Chloe with a wearable device developed at UVA—called an artificial pancreas—which functions as an automated insulin pump.

Throughout the trial, the artificial pancreas regulated and stabilized Chloe’s blood sugar, allowing her to play and eat like other children.

“What they’re working on at UVA is life-changing. The trial was like having access to a miracle for a week.”
Amanda Jarrat

Her mom, Amanda Jarrat, was overwhelmed by the experience. “What they’re working on at UVA is life-changing,” says Jarrat. “The trial was like having access to a miracle for a week.”

By focusing on early-stage research, LaunchPad helps the most innovative researchers develop and refine the ideas that will ultimately attract large-scale research funding in the years to come.

“Our goal with LaunchPad is to inspire these scientists,” says Paul Manning, the businessman and philanthropist whose vision created the fund. “If we can support them in their early science, we give them a chance to mature their research. Then, they can gain additional capital from NIH and other sources.”

Mark DeBoer, the pediatrician who designed Chloe’s clinical trial, considers LaunchPad to be a lifeline.

“Receiving funding from NIH requires large preliminary data sets, and LaunchPad enables us to collect and understand the data we need for future grants,” says DeBoer.

For Manning and his wife, Diane, LaunchPad is a personal mission: two of their children have diabetes. To date, the couple’s overall investment of $3.3 million has led to 25 patent applications and a $17 million commitment from UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund.

The resulting momentum opens doors to more projects, including the work of Dr. José Oberholzer, who directs the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center at UVA, and whose innovations in islet cell therapy show great promise for treating diabetes.

When transplanted islet cells perform as planned, some patients with diabetes can live without insulin injections or medications.

“Through LaunchPad, projects can get funded quickly,” says Oberholzer. “You have a thorough and competitive peer review, but then it moves fast. LaunchPad accelerates research, and that’s important for so many future patients.”