The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences shared that Doug Melton, who graduated in 1975 with a degree in biology, began working on a cure for Type 1 diabetes after his son was diagnosed at six months old. From the New York Times:
The disease, which occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-secreting islet cells of the pancreas, often starts around age 13 or 14. Unlike the more common and milder Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 is quickly lethal unless patients get injections of insulin. No one spontaneously gets better.
Melton began working with embryonic stem cells with the hopes of turning them into those islet cells, and founded his own company to further his research. He successfully created islet cells from embryonic cells in 2014, and in 2019 pharmaceutical company Vertex acquired Semma and is now in early clinical trial to produce a drug. Early results are promising.
Dr. Melton, normally a calm man, was jittery during what felt like a moment of truth. He had spent decades and all of his passion on this project. By the end of the Vertex team’s presentation, a huge smile broke out on his face; the data were for real.
Here is an interview with Melton about the discovery.
Top photo by Kris Snibbe of The Harvard Gazette.