University of Calgary

Diabetes research



santamaria receives fundingU of C scientist receives top diabetes research award

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation—the world’s largest charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research—has announced that Dr. Pere Santamaria, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine, is the recipient of its second annual Scholar Award. The award provides sustained support for individual scientists of extraordinary talent and creativity who pursue pioneering research toward finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and its complications.

Santamaria was selected as one of six recipients of this prestigious award because of his ground-breaking ideas, unique research direction, willingness to take risks and commitment to accelerating type 1 diabetes research. Each of the recipients will receive $250,000 US annually for up to five years for their research efforts.

“The Scholar Award is designed to encourage and support innovative, high-risk and high-reward, paradigm-shifting, challenging research,” said Richard Insel, executive vice-president of research of the JDRF. “To fulfill its mission and find a cure fast, JDRF depends on the creativity and excellence of individual scientists like Dr. Santamaria.”

Santamaria is the director of the Julia McFarlane Diabetes Research Centre at the U of C’s Faculty of Medicine. He received the award for his proposal to explore a new technique for preventing diabetes by using a novel vaccine in which tiny particles of iron are coated with proteins from pancreatic beta cells and then injected into the body.

Type 1 diabetes normally develops when some immune cells attack the body’s own beta cells because they are mistaken for foreign substances. The vaccine stimulates the production of “weak” immune cells that tolerate the beta cell proteins and protect against their destruction. If this vaccine approach is effective, it could slow onset or even prevent the disease .