Partnerships between multiple universities or institutions are not so uncommon in research, but when's the last time you heard of an entire state coming together to cure a disease? Earlier this month, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, together forming the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, announced a formal 10-year-long partnership to cure diabetes which they've named, "Decade of Discovery: A Minnesota Partnership to Defeat Diabetes."
The goal is to raise between $250 and $350 Million for diabetes research and gain additional support from academia, the state, health care providers and businesses. In a phone interview last week, Dr. Richard Rizza, research director at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, reported that the state of Minnesota spends $2 Billion on the treatment of diabetes every year, and that this initiative aims to offset that, by "bringing together various sectors in Minnesota to discover new treatments, and hopefully prevent and cure diabetes."
To keep things on track, the partnership has also brought in an oversight committee, co-chaired by Nobel laureate Peter Agre and investor Vance Opperman, CEO of Key Investments, who also sits on the board of directors of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Logistics of the partnership plan are apparently still in the infancy stage. They hop to secure additional funding from the state government, and solicit support from local business, while helping to create jobs. So it's a win-win campaign for PWDs and the Minnesotan state economy too.
"This is a public and private partnership. The state has been very supportive of research, because this is how you stimulate business. We understand that this is hard financial times, and we are investing in the future," Dr. Rizza says.
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So what if you don't live in Minnesota?
Dr. Rizza and his team strongly believe this campaign will have a ripple effect to help all PWDs. In the immediate future, he says, they'll focus on "enhancing diabetes education and availability of treatment throughout Minnesota." Lessons learned there can later be shared with clinics around the country. And the partnership also plans to fund new diabetes cure research, hopefully bringing in talented scientists to Minnesota's research institutions, with at least a couple of new positions being created in the next few months.
"The goal of this is optimal treatment and ultimate cure," says Dr. Rizza. "If we can optimally treat and prevent complications, and then understand this disease even more, then we can cure it." (Well, he certainly doesn't lack confidence.)
Just FYI: the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic actually began their partnership in 2005, and a couple of years ago, a joint committee began discussing the possibility of creating a large-scale campaign devoted to one condition. Among the leading contenders were heart disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Dr. Rizza, who's also a former president of the American Diabetes Association and an endocrinologist, was pleased when the committee decided to focus on diabetes!
But does the title of this undertaking ("Defeat Diabetes") mean that scientists are once again way overoptimistic in thinking they can cure diabetes within 10 years? Hardly, says Dr. Rizza. "The promise is to optimally treat, and ultimately cure, but there's no time line. There might be something big that we can pull off in this 10-year time frame, but it's not appropriate to make the promise that we'll achieve a cure by then."
Oh well — realistic is good. "Pushing the envelope" is good too. So I guess it's all good. Thank you, Mayo Clinic and the North Star State for pioneering a model we'd like to see in all of our great States.