The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in April 2022 recognized two Mount Sinai researchers, and Mount Sinai as whole, for contributions to type 1 diabetes research and patient care. Andrew Stewart, MD, Director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism Institute, and Carol J. Levy, MD, CDCES, Director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center and Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research, have both made significant discoveries that are changing patients’ lives for the better. This was the first time a health system has been recognized at the annual Promise Ball held by the JDRF, the leading type 1 diabetes research and advocacy organization.
Dr. Stewart, the Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is a leading authority on the biology of human insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. His research group has discovered the first drugs that are able to induce human beta cells to regenerate for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, a method that could be scaled to millions of people with diabetes. His research has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health and JDRF since 1978.
“For the first time, we are able to show that it is possible to use a drug to make human beta cells regenerate,” Dr. Stewart says. “What we offer is not only a way to grow beta cells back in early stages, which should be relatively easy, but also grow them back in people who've had type 1 diabetes for decades. For the first time, it’s possible that a patient would simply have to take a pill or a shot, or a combination thereof, and the person’s beta cells could be regenerated.” In 2022, his team reported further progress in investigating the mechanism of this class of drugs.
Dr. Levy, Professor of Medicine (Diabetes, Endocrinology and Bone Disease), was recognized for her extraordinary research work and clinical excellence. As Director of the Artificial Pancreas Research Program, Dr. Levy works with her team to significantly improve the lives of people with diabetes by applying the most recent advances in the field to groundbreaking research and clinical care. In collaboration with national and international researchers, the Artificial Pancreas Research Program has helped transform the management of patients with type 1 diabetes. Dr. Levy’s team is developing an artificial pancreas algorithm tailored to the unique challenges faced by pregnant women with type 1 diabetes. And in 2022, the team tested an automated insulin delivery system that showed promise for people with type 2 diabetes who are struggling to control their glucose levels.
Dr. Levy has a personal connection to diabetes. “I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 7 years old,” says Dr. Levy. “It's remarkable when I look back on how diabetes was managed then, compared to where we are now. It’s a new world regarding the management of people with diabetes: new treatments, new technologies, new injectables—it’s exciting to serve as a lead investigator on these studies, and then see our projects improve the care of patients.”
The JDRF Greater New York City Chapter Promise Ball has raised almost $80 million in support of the organization’s mission since its inception. It brings leaders in the philanthropic and business communities together to celebrate a shared vision of a world without type 1 diabetes.
The 2022 event featured a video on Mount Sinai’s contribution to clinical care and knowledge of type 1 diabetes, which included the stories of several patients. One such young patient is Victoria Gamez. Her mother, Jaime, said, “I was worried about putting her on Dexcom in the beginning, and then later the Omnipod®. But our doctors helped us with that, and both of those have been life-changers for us.”
Dr. Stewart said he and the team at the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Institute were proud and grateful to have received this recognition from JDRF. “Our earliest efforts in human beta cell regenerative drug discovery research were funded by JDRF and would not have happened without them. Similarly, Dr. Levy’s work with the artificial pancreas has received enthusiastic encouragement and fiscal support from JDRF over the years, and this could not have happened without JDRF‘s vision.”
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be recognized by the JDRF for the support we provide people living with diabetes,” Dr. Levy said. “We have worked alongside the JDRF for many years with the shared goal of improving the lives of those living with diabetes, and we look forward to continuing to work toward a world without this disease.”
Additional crucial contributors to Mount Sinai’s efforts to treat and investigate type 1 diabetes include Joan Han, MD, Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, and her team of type 1 diabetes clinicians; Robert DeVita, PhD, Professor of Pharmacological Sciences and Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Core of the Drug Discovery Institute; Kunal Kumar, PhD, senior scientist in the Drug Discovery Institute; and Peng Wang, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Diabetes and Blood Disease), and Adolfo Garcia-Ocaña, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Diabetes and Blood Disease), both members of the Diabetes Obesity Metabolism Institute.
“It is a great honor to have Dr. Stewart and Dr. Levy’s work recognized by the JDRF,” said Andrea Dunaif, MD, Chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease for the Mount Sinai Health System, and the Lillian and Henry M. Stratton Professor of Molecular Medicine at Icahn Mount Sinai. “This recognition is exceptionally well deserved, as both have been pioneers in diabetes research and patient care for decades and have devoted their careers to the fight against type 1 diabetes.”