U. of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic aim to raise $250 million or more for expanded diabetes research

By Chris Willams, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

U of Minnesota, Mayo to expand diabetes research

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic announced Tuesday they hope to raise between $250 million and $350 million for expanded research into treatments and a cure for diabetes.

The institutions said diabetes-related treatment is consuming one of every three Medicare dollars spent in the U.S., and $2 billion in health care costs in Minnesota. More than 269,000 Minnesotans have the disease, making it imperative to push research forward.

At a news conference Tuesday, officials said they hope to raise the money over the next 10 years from public and private sources. It would go toward prevention, encouraging the best of current therapies and developing new treatments.

Dr. Robert Rizza, research director at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, said the two institutions together already spend about $40 million a year on diabetes research.

He said he believes a cure is within reach because advances in the past few years have given researchers a new understanding of the disease. “I think we have a very good shot at this,” he said.

Any breakthrough research would be owned by the partnership and agreements are already in place for how discoveries would be brought to market. Innovations in the prevention and treatment of the disease could benefit both patients and the local economy, Rizza said.

“This is not about the money,” he added, “but if you do this right, it means jobs.”

Dr. Frank Cerra, dean of the University of Minnesota medical school, said the partnership plans to begin hiring additional researchers in two to three months. He hoped Tuesday’s announcement would make the state more attractive to top research talent.

“We want Minnesota to be the destination state for diabetes,” he said.

The partnership has tapped Nobel laureate and Minnesota native Peter Agre to help lead an oversight committee. Agre will be joined as co-chairman by investor Vance Opperman, who sits on the board of directors of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood sugar resulting from defects in insulin production, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness, kidney damage, heart disease and amputations of the lower limbs.


The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics: bit.ly/bZr9pO

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Diabetes: bit.ly/9qGin3

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