As you know, the American Diabetes Association has undergone several significant changes over the last six months in an effort to best align its resources toward the goal of achieving its mission, “to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.” Most notably is a strategic reorganization in almost every aspect of how the Association conducts its business, including the launch of a new strategic plan and operating model to help us drive new programs and initiatives. Our new strategic plan calls for the Association to drive discovery, raise voice and support people. In this regard, I am writing today as your Chief Scientific, Medical and Mission Officer to update you on a new line of communication we call “Mission Impact.” This update is designed to keep you abreast of all new developments on our Mission work including research, advocacy efforts, professional services, consumer programs and products. There have been a lot of exciting developments at the Association recently, and I will outline some of those developments below in addition to introducing you to the new leaders of the Mission Team, who bring incredible skill sets, experience and knowledge to the Association. Thus, the new re-alignment of function and the exciting new strategic plan, combined with the energy and passion of those at the Association, puts us in a great position to continue to improve the lives of those individuals with diabetes until there is a cure. It IS the reason we do what we do!
Chief Scientific, Medical and Mission Officer
“Drive discovery” is a key pillar of our new strategic plan, and as such, Tamara Darsow, PhD, who has skillfully led the Association’s research efforts for years, has greatly expanded her scope of activities to now serve as Senior Vice President, Research and Community Programs for the Association. In her new role, she provides leadership across a number of scientific and medical activities, including research programs, medical and clinical affairs, community education and support programming. As you can imagine, it is a busy time in the Association’s research programs with the recent and upcoming grant application deadlines upon us. In April, we received 759 applications for our Core Research Program, which offers funding opportunities in research, training and development. This is an 8% increase in the total number of applications from last year. The relative breakdown of applications by award mechanism was similar to last year, with the biggest differences reflected by increases in applications to both the Innovative Basic Science Award and the Postdoctoral Fellowship Award. More than 200 volunteers will critically evaluate the applications over the coming months and we look forward to funding a new group of research grants that will commence in January 2018.
We also just wrapped up a request for applications for a targeted research initiative, supported by Pfizer Inc., to fund postdoctoral fellowships in cardiovascular-metabolic research in the New England Region. We received 18 applications and we anticipate funding three two-year fellowships to begin in July 2017.
Next up is our fast-approaching nomination deadline for the Pathway to Stop Diabetes awards, on July 3, 2017. These long-term (5-7 year) grants provide substantial support ($1.625 million) to stellar scientists who are early in their careers or established in other fields to pursue big ideas in diabetes research.
As always, stay up-to-date on funding opportunities at www.diabetes.org/grants. And don’t forget to take a look at some of the wonderful contributions our funded researchers made in 2016 in our Research Year in Review and our Pathway Annual Report.
Linda Cann, who for years has overseen the development of domestic and international professional education programs, including the annual scientific sessions for the Association, also has a much-expanded role as Senior Vice President, Professional Services at the Association. Her charge now also includes directing professional membership efforts, quality improvement and diabetes prevention programs.
Linda and her team are very busy planning the finishing touches for the 77th Scientific Sessions to be held on June 9-13 in San Diego, CA. The Scientific Sessions Meeting Planning Committee, led by Dr. Maureen Gannon from Vanderbilt University, developed a comprehensive program focused on the significant advances in diabetes research, treatment and care. It will include presentations from world-renowned scientists and more than 2,500 original oral and poster research presentations. In addition, findings from the following clinical studies will be delivered over the course of the five-day program:
- Inhibition of PCSK9 in Dyslipidemia Patients with Diabetes
- New Learnings from the Results of the Liraglutide Effect and Action in Diabetes―Evaluation of Cardiovascular Outcome Results (LEADER) Trial
- Results of the JDRF Reducing with Metformin Vascular Adverse Lesions in Type 1 Diabetes (REMOVAL) International Multicenter Trial
- Cardiovascular Safety of Insulin Degludec vs. Insulin Glargine in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes at High Risk of Cardiovascular Events (DEVOTE) Trial
- Integrated Results of the CANVAS Program
- Type 1 Diabetes Immune Intervention Trials
The Association’s prestigious science, medicine and health care awards will also be presented during the meeting, including the Banting Medal for Scientific achievement to Dr. Domenico Accili, the Outstanding Educator in Diabetes Award to Ms. Davida Kruger, and the Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award to Dr. Gregory Steinberg. Congratulations to all on these accomplishments, and we hope to see you all in San Diego.
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS AND ADVOCACY
Advocacy remains an important focus for the Association, and we recently completed a nationwide search to find the next leader of our advocacy efforts. We were very fortunate and excited that LaShawn McIver, MD, MPH, agreed to serve as our new Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & Advocacy and to provide strategic direction and oversight of the Association's advocacy activities. Dr. McIver previously served as the Vice President of Public Policy & Strategic Alliances and brings incredible expertise and enthusiasm to her new role.
On March 30, the Association mobilized more than 180 advocates from 34 states to advocate at our nation’s Capital on behalf of more than 116 million Americans living with or at risk for diabetes. This movement to “raise voice”—one of our new strategic pillars—involved adults and children living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, family members, diabetes care providers, researchers, physicians and Association leadership including members and officers of the National Board of Directors. The effort also included 32 members of Team Tackle, an initiative that engages professional football players and members of the NFL Players Association to raise awareness of diabetes and prediabetes. This diverse group of advocates came together to urge their members of Congress to increase federal funding for diabetes research and programs, protect health care for individuals with or at risk for diabetes, and make insulin affordable.
The day kicked off with a press conference with Association leadership, co-chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and a panel of advocates who shared their personal stories. Association staff delivered the Association’s “Make Insulin Affordable” petition containing more than 235,000 signatures to Senators Collins and Shaheen. Throughout the day advocates met with their legislators to discuss the same priorities addressed at the press conference. Following the legislative meetings on Capitol Hill, a specialized training was held to empower advocates to continue to “raise voice” back home with their members of Congress.
Michael Eisenstein rounds out our new Mission Team and serves as the Senior Vice President, Products at the Association. The Association’s market-leading journals, Diabetes and Diabetes Care, fall within his purview, as well as hundreds of books for consumers and professionals, Diabetes Forecast magazine and custom publishing for corporate biopharma markets.
Under his direction, the Association’s “Products” team is busy working on a number of exciting projects, most notably our joint project with IBM Watson: The Diabetes Discovery Center (DDC), and a new digital initiative: the Food Hub. The DDC will use Watson’s machine-learning capabilities to allow faster and more precise identification and delivery of scientific information to both bench and clinical scientists, with the possibility of, in time, identifying novel connections and insights in the scientific knowledge base that will accelerate discoveries that advance our mission. The IBM Development Team is currently working hard on a demo version of the Product which may be ready for preview at Scientific Sessions this June in San Diego.
The Food Hub will aggregate all Association-approved recipes, meal plans and nutrition tools in one consolidated, user-friendly collection with the goal of providing personalized recipes to consumers based on their health and individual preferences.