A technology billionaire has given $10 million (£6.5 million) of funding to a research lab at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), to investigate if cell therapy can be used to cure type 1 diabetes.
Sean Parker is an early Facebook investor and cofounder of Napster – his net worth is valued at $2.5 billion by Forbes. Parker, who suffers from asthma and a severe nut allergy, also donated $24 million last December to establish an allergy research centre.
This new lab will exist within UCSF’s Diabetes Centre and will be called the Sean N. Parker Autoimmune Research Laboratory.
The aim of the lab is to create drugs for people with type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases that can “re-educate” the immune system to heal itself, rather than become dependent on the drugs.
Dr. Jeff Bluestone, a leading immunologist has been working on eliminating type 1 diabetes by genetically modifying cells. According to UCSF, Bluestone’s work with T-cell activation and co-stimulation has led to the development of several therapies that promote immune tolerance.
This theory is similar to T-cell immunotherapy, which is being used to treat cancer patients. In cancer immunotherapy, physicians remove cancerous tissue and infuse tumour-specific cytotoxic T cells which are designed to directly kill cancer cells.
Parker hopes the lab will be able to make a breakthrough in cell therapy research within two to five years.
Parker said: “What’s so interesting about this moment in time is that just 10 years ago this all seemed maybe theoretically possible but it seemed like science fiction and now it’s happening in the clinic regularly. We’re at the cusp of a revolution in many different fields.”

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