The next five years
The goal of this research program is to find strategies to increase the number of insulin-producing beta-cells, to find novel interventions for diabetes. In this regard we are in the process of setting up a laboratory bridging developmental biology, metabolism and drug discovery. We think that it will become very useful to combine different model systems, such as cell-culture, zebrafish and mouse. The cell-culture and zebrafish are excellent models for drug screening, whereas the mouse is a well-established model system for the study of adult homeostasis. At this early point we are performing pilot experiments while simultaneously building the lab infrastructure as well as a vibrant group. Around 90% of the infrastructure is already in place, and we expect to have everything up and running by March 2013. A microscope that enables high-resolution imaging is an important piece of equipment for the lab, and takes time to get in place. After setting up the lab, all that is left is to perform the outlined experiments -- no, that is not really the case: this is science and one never knows what to expect. Surely we will need to adapt and come up with alternative strategies during the coming 5 years in order to reach our goals. The funds allocated by the Ragnar Söderberg’s foundation enable us to start more open-ended and long-term research projects that, if successful, may be more original. Therefore, we encourage other foundations to lengthen the duration of their granting period to 5 years.
Our long-term vision is to see our lab findings translate to clinical practice. Clinical development of a lead compound relies in large part on the patentability of the compound. Eventually, perhaps in the end of these 5 years of support from Ragnar Söderberg’s foundation, we aim to create a start-up company that can itself file patents on new chemical entities or on a structurally related group of promising hits around which chemical space can be secured in a generic patent claim.
In general terms of the future endeavors, we will try to observe and discover, and then explain the mechanisms behind the increased number of insulin-producing beta-cells. It is important to explain the molecular mechanisms such that interventions can be developed, and in this way we believe that we will also learn the most.