Columbia University Medical Center

Diabetes Researcher Kickstarts Project with Crowdfunding

Remi Creusot, middle, with two members of his lab, Shamael Dastagir and Chunliang Xu.

Remi Creusot, middle, with two members of his lab, Shamael Dastagir (l.) and Chunliang Xu (r.).

Columbia immunologist Remi Creusot, PhD, has an idea about diabetes that could lead to a way to stop the immune system’s attack on the insulin cells in recently diagnosed type 1 patients.

But with funding from traditional sponsors such as the NIH and foundations becoming increasingly scarce, Creusot has turned to an unusual strategy to support his project: crowdfunding. Instead of asking for $20,000 from a single sponsor, Creusot is asking thousands of people to donate $5, $10, or any amount directly to his project.

Crowdfunding is commonly associated with artists and video game designers who raise money on websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Relatively few scientists have tried the approach, but as reported on NPR earlier this year (Scientists Pass the Hat for Research Funding), some have been able to raise more than $300,000 for their projects.

Creusot has listed his project on a new website, Consano, dedicated to medical research. On the site, he writes that he also hopes to use the crowdfunding to make more personal connections:

Over the years, I got to meet patients that gave a human dimension to this disease that I only knew through cells and molecules. Shortly after focusing my research on T1D, I became involved in fundraising for T1D research in general. Today, Consano gives me the possibility to showcase an aspect of my research that excites me, and hopefully to directly connect with the very people I want to help.

A cartoon on the Consano website explains the idea behind Creusot's research.

Click on the cartoon to learn more about Creusot’s research.

For Creusot, diabetes is a problem of education, and in his Consano project, he intends to create “super-educator” cells that can reprogram T cells that have mistakenly learned to attack insulin-producing islet cells.

Already Creusot has successfully used this technique to block the progression of type 1 diabetes in mice.

In the Consano project, Creusot plans to create human educator cells and test their properties. He says, in an article on Columbia’s Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center website,

This is the field I believe I can advance. Hopefully, when I get old and look back, we will be using our own cells to re-educate our own immune system in a way that is safe, efficient and cost-effective. That’s what medicine will look like.

For more information on Remi Creusot’s “super-educator” project, visit his page on Consano.

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