September 24, 2018
Ten years ago, Linda and Todd Broin made a $10 million gift to The Sanford Project, a research initiative to end type 1 diabetes (T1D).
“We’re doing this for the cure,” Linda Broin said.
At the time, The Sanford Project was little more than a bold vision, conceived to tackle a chronic disease that affects millions of Americans. It was one of several initiatives that stemmed from Denny Sanford’s historic $400 million gift to Sanford Health in 2007.
The Broins, quiet philanthropists from Sioux Falls, believed in the project’s goals enough to step forward and become among its greatest champions.
“It was so exciting to hear that somebody had a plan,” recalls Linda, who has lived with T1D since she was diagnosed at age 12. “You have hope for so many years for a cure, but it never happened. To have a team right in our own backyard to tackle that was a miracle to us.”
Their generosity kicked the initiative into full gear, providing the capital to establish the research infrastructure and recruit a leading team of scientists.
A decade later, that investment is paying off. The Sanford Project has become an internationally recognized research center, with a team of more than 20 scientists working to deliver new ways to cure, prevent and treat T1D.
“It’s nice to be involved with an organization that’s on the cutting edge and growing and expanding throughout the world,” Todd said. “It’s really exciting to watch Sanford grow into a world-class facility and bring healing to the world.”
What is T1D?
Every year, about 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with T1D.
The disease develops when the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without insulin — a hormone that enables blood sugar to enter cells where it can be used for energy — blood sugar builds up in the bloodstream. This buildup can damage the body and cause serious complications.
There is no way to prevent or predict who will get T1D, and currently there is no cure. It can be diagnosed at any age, but most frequently in childhood, causing a lifetime of vigilance and dependence on injected or pumped insulin.
What’s The Sanford Project’s strategy?
Sanford researchers are approaching T1D from three angles:
- Autoimmunity: Stopping the immune system’s attack on the body’s insulin-producing beta cells.
- Prevention: Identifying children at high risk and intervening before the onset of autoimmunity.
- Regeneration: Harnessing advancements in regenerative and personalized medicine to stimulate repair mechanisms and reboot insulin-producing beta cells.
The Sanford Project: T-Rex Study
A landmark study currently underway is The Sanford Project T-Rex Study. Conducted in collaboration with Caladrius Biosciences, Inc., it is investigating whether a child’s own cells can fight T1D.
Since its launch in 2016, T-Rex has expanded from two regional sites to 15 sites across the United States. In December 2017, the trial completed enrollment of 110 children with T1D.
The therapy used in this trial has received fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a first for any T1D intervention. That designation is reserved for drugs or biologics that address a serious health condition, like T1D, where there is an unmet medical need.
How can you help?
We’ve come a long way in the past decade, thanks to the incredible generosity of donors like the Broins, but there’s no time to slow down. Every day, children and patients of all ages remind us of the urgency of The Sanford Project’s mission to cure, prevent and treat this unforgiving disease.
Your gift of any amount will make a difference. How? Here are some examples of how donations are used:
- $200: Supports one course of therapy for a child with T1D participating in a trial like T-Rex.
- $500: Covers expenses for one patient and his or her family traveling from a rural area to participate in a clinical trial.
- $5,000: Allows two Sanford research teams to publish discoveries about T1D treatments to share with researchers around the world.
- $25,000: Covers the average annual out-of-pocket cost of care for one child with T1D.