Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation finds its new chair

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has appointed Alan Lewis as the new chief executive. He will step down from his job at Novocell, including his board seat, on Jan. 1 to start work at the New York City-based nonprofit.

Lewis, 63, a Ph.D. scientist educated in the United Kingdom, is a 30-year veteran of the drug discovery industry, including stints leading three biotechnology companies and as a vice president at a major international pharmaceutical company. The foundation seeks to achieve its goals by funding cutting-edge research around the globe. It is the largest charitable fundraising organization for Type 1 diabetes.

Novocell, a small, privately held company, is developing a diabetes therapy using human embryonic stem cells that have been coaxed into becoming insulin-producing pancreatic cells.

In his new job, Lewis will be helping the 600-person foundation find the best scientific projects to fund. That includes reviewing grant applications as well as helping to identify companies working on promising technology.

In 2007, Novocell received the foundation’s Industry Discovery and Development Partnership grant, part of a funding program to help small biotech companies.Lewis will also be responsible for leading the foundation’s fundraising efforts, which include sponsoring charitable walks and galas, as well as meeting with individual donors.

Novocell’s therapy, which is being readied for clinical trials, involves encapsulating insulin-producing cells in a polymer that makes them invisible to the body’s immune system. Once in the body, the cells secrete insulin, to help diabetics control their blood sugar.

Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1.3 billion to diabetes research. Last year, the foundation provided funding of more than $156 million, including $6.3 million for embryonic stem cell research and $1.1 million for human adult stem cell research.

Source: SanDiego.com

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