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David Harlan appointed director of JDRF Center of Excellence in New England

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

June 17, 2022
David M. Harlan, MD

David M. Harlan, MD, the William and Doris Krupp Professor of Medicine, professor of medicine and co-director of the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence at UMass Chan Medical School, has been appointed as the new director of the JDRF Center of Excellence in New England.

“For many years, JDRF has supported the collaborative work of Dr. Harlan and his colleagues in the Greater New England area,” said Esther Latres, PhD, JDRF assistant vice president of research. “Under Dr. Harlan’s leadership, we anticipate continued progress toward a cure for type 1 diabetes using stem-cell derived beta cell and islet therapies.”

For nearly 40 years, Harlan has conducted research exploring the pathophysiology underlying diabetes. He brings years of experience as an endocrinologist with expertise in diabetes and metabolism. A renowned basic and clinical investigator, Harlan focuses on beta cell biology and the anti-beta cell immune response.

“For decades, clinician–scientists like myself have been working to develop methods to safely interfere with the autoimmune response that targets the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreases of people with type 1 diabetes,” said Harlan. “Our group is working to genetically modify the beta cells to make them invulnerable to the immune system when infused into a person with type 1 diabetes.”

The JDRF Center of Excellence in New England is part of a growing global network of research centers aimed at accelerating science in curing type 1 diabetes and improving lives. Organized as a cross-institutional collaboration between leading experts from the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jackson Laboratory, the Center of Excellence in New England focuses on exploring immune responses and applying cell engineering technologies to prevent rejection of highly functional islets by the immune system in the absence of immune suppression.

“We’re testing these human cells in vivo in our unique biological models,” said. “The goal is to provide an islet cell replacement therapy that eliminates the need for immunosuppressant drugs with their inherent toxicities.”

Harlan’s tenure as head of the Center of Excellence begins immediately, taking over for Douglas Melton, PhD, who announced he would be stepping down to join Vertex Pharmaceuticals as a distinguished fellow.

Related UMass Chan news stories:
UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science awards seven new pilot grants
UMass Medical School joins JDRF Center of Excellence in New England to advance type 1 diabetes research