Sanford presents at international Vatican conference

May 22, 2018

From rare disease research to personalized diet plans, adult stem cell therapy to a $1 million Nobel Prize-like award, Sanford Health had a lot to share last month at the biennial Vatican conference in Rome. 

Sanford experts joined leaders in health care, science and research from around the world as part of the “Unite to Cure: The Fourth International Vatican Conference – How Science, Technology and 21st Century Medicine Will Impact Culture and Society.”

This was the second time Sanford presented at the invite-only event, reflecting its growing reputation as a global leader in research and medical innovation.

Here are six key takeaways from Sanford’s presentations:


1. “We suffer from a terrible disorder within our organization … the disorder of impatience.”

– Micah Aberson, chief global brand officer at Sanford Health

Aberson was alluding to the driving force behind this year’s inaugural Sanford Lorraine Cross Award — a uniquely forward-thinking prize intended to spur transformational medical innovation. He was invited to speak about the award during a panel focused on accelerating innovation and discovery.

The winner of the $1million award will be announced this December.

Experts from the scientific and medical communities are in the process of narrowing nominees down to three finalists. From that group, the Sanford International Board will choose the winner.

Here are eight things to know about the Award.


2. “I’ve become a believer.”

– Golf legend Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus revealed that a stem cell therapy linked to Sanford Health relieved him of decades of severe back pain.

Nicklaus was treated with his own adipose-derived stem cells by Dr. Eckhard Alt at a Sanford World Clinic site in Munich, Germany.

Sanford Health has been aggressive in pursuing this area of research. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved two new clinical trials involving adipose-derived stem cells for the health care system, bringing the total trials to four, with a fifth pending.

Nicklaus joined Dr. Alt, along with Sanford Health’s Jason Hurd, M.D., and Mark Allen Lundeen, M.D., on a panel entitled, “The Pharmacy of the Future,” which focused on how the health system is using stem cells.


3.  “We’ve taken stakes in initiatives that are off the beaten path from the traditional care that we’re known for.”

-Kelby Krabbenhoft, president, and CEO, Sanford Health

On a panel about the role of health care systems in the rapidly shifting medical landscape, Krabbenhoft was introduced by moderator Dr. Mehmet Oz as one of the “visionaries re-imagining the future of health care.”

Krabbenhoft cited Sanford World ClinicProfile by Sanford and a focus on adipose-derived stem cell therapy as some of the ways that the health system is evolving and leading the treatments and cures of tomorrow.


4. “We believe this is going to have a major impact on type 1 diabetes.”

-Dr. David Pearce, executive vice president of innovation and research, Sanford Health

Dr. Pearce was speaking of The Sanford Project: T-Rex Study, a clinical trial studying an innovative investigational therapy in children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He joined the president and CEO of Caladrius Biosciences, Sanford’s collaborator on the T-Rex Study, to speak about the power of public-private partnerships to accelerate discoveries.

The study opened in March 2016, and the first enrollee recently received his final evaluation as part of the study. In December, Sanford Health completed enrollment of 110 children with T1D.


5. “We’re doing this faster. We’re doing this smarter. But we’re not cutting any corners.”

-Jill Weimer, Ph.D., senior director of therapeutic development and associate scientist, Sanford Research

Weimer was invited to share her expertise on a panel about treating rare disease.

Along with David Pearce, Ph.D., executive vice president of innovation and research at Sanford, Weimer is among the world’s leaders in the study Batten disease, a group of rare neurodegenerative diseases primarily affect children.

Weimer and Pearce are each leading research initiatives at Sanford that work collaboratively to give these children and their families hope.

Sanford also works to connect rare disease patients and their families through the Coordination of Rare Disease at Sanford (CoRDS) registry. The free database began in 2010 and now serves nearly 5,000 people representing more than 770 rare diseases.


6. “If somebody has more copies of this gene, it indicates that they’re better at metabolizing carbohydrates.”

 Steve Herrmann, Ph.D., director of program development, Profile by Sanford; assistant scientist, Sanford Research

During a panel about genetic testing and wellness, Herrmann described Profile Precise, a new test created by Sanford that harnesses the power of genetics to develop more personalized weight loss strategies for individuals.