Why SDI

For more than 40 years, the Schulze Diabetes Institute has pursued its dream to end the threat of type 1 diabetes. Today, we stand at the threshold of making a cure widely available.

In 1974, our specific path was forged when we developed the world’s first safe, effective and minimally invasive cure using islet transplantation. We’ve been passionate about refining this process and bringing it to the public ever since.

Due in large part to the protocols developed by the Schulze Diabetes Institute, human islet transplantation to reverse type 1 diabetes now matches the success rate of whole organ pancreas transplants. This was once considered impossible.

Today, our sole mission is to pioneer superior transplant therapeutics for people burdened with diabetes. No other facility in the world is better positioned to make this happen.

Expertise

The Schulze Diabetes Institute is home to the world’s leading experts in islet cell isolation and transplantation. In fact, we developed the process.

Our team of more than 30 professionals is led by internationally renowned transplant surgeon Dr. David Sutherland and Dr. Bernhard Hering who is one of the world’s foremost experts on islet cell transplantation. 

Experience

No other facility in the U.S. has enrolled more patients in Clinical Islet Transplantation Consortium clinical trials than the Schulze Diabetes Institute.

We’ve completed 9 such clinical trials. Results clearly demonstrate that islet cell transplantation is effective. To date:

  • 90% of transplant recipients have become insulin-independent
  • 50% have remained insulin-independent for at least 5 years
  • 80% of recipients remain protected from hypoglycemia after 5 years

Today, we're one of only 9 facilities in the United States selected by the NIH to conduct Phase III clinical trials. This is the final round of study before the FDA will decide whether to approve the procedure as a standard therapy for type 1 diabetes.

Milestones

The University of Minnesota has been a leader in transplant medicine since the 1960s, pioneering and refining techniques, as well as training many of the transplant surgeons around the world today.

Our work in pancreas and islet cell transplantation, in particular, has a long history of success.

1963

The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic establish organ transplantation programs. Surgeons from both facilities perform kidney transplants.

1966

University of Minnesota surgeons Richard C. Lillehei, M.D. and William D. Kelly, M.D. perform the world’s first pancreas transplant.

1967

Drs. Lillehei and Kelly perform the world’s first simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant.

1974

University of Minnesota surgeons David Sutherland, M.D., Ph.D. and John Najarian, M.D. perform the first allo-islet cell transplant (from a deceased donor to a living recipient) to treat type 1 diabetes.

1977 

Drs. Sutherland and Najarian perform the world’s first auto-islet transplant (using the patient’s own cells) on a person with pancreatitis.

1979

Dr. Sutherland performs the world’s first partial pancreas transplant from a living related donor.

1983

The FDA approves the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine. Cyclosporine transforms organ transplantation from experimental to routine.

1987

A University of Minnesota/Mayo Clinic collaborative led by Dr. Sutherland and James D. Perkins, M.D. results in the development of a technique for simultaneous liver/pancreas procurement.

1992

Dr. Sutherland performs the first unrelated living-donor pancreas transplant. That same year, Sutherland and Paul Gores, M.D. conduct one of the world’s first clinical islet transplant trials using single donors of simultaneous kidney transplants.

1994

Dr. Sutherland and Rainer Gruessner, M.D. perform the first combined segmental pancreas and kidney transplant from a living donor.

1996

Bernhard Hering, M.D., a world leader in islet transplant therapy and xenotransplantation (transplants from one species to another), joined the University of Minnesota faculty

2000

Dr. Gruessner, Dr. Sutherland and Raja Kandaswamy, M.D. perform the first simultaneous laparoscopic living donor pancreas-kidney transplant.

2008

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation provides a grant to put the Schulze Diabetes Institute on an accelerated path to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes.

2010

Recognizing our success, the National Institutes of Health renewed funding for us to continue our human islet clinical trials. Of the 7 sites in the United States chosen to conduct these trials, no other site has enrolled more patients than the University of Minnesota.

Today, nearly 90% of islet transplant recipients become insulin independent post-transplant, and more than 50% remain so after 5 years.

2013

The Schulze Diabetes Institute transplants final patient as part of Phase III clinical trial of human islet transplants for people with difficult-to-manage type 1 diabetes.

2014

The University of Minnesota transplants human islets into its 100th individual with type 1 diabetes.

Christopher Burlak, Ph.D., joins the Schulze Diabetes Institute with a focus on understanding xenotransplant immunology, and the generation of genetically modified donor pigs.

2015

The University of Minnesota completes its 600th total pancreatectomy and islet auto-transplant for the treatment of chronic pancreatitis

2016

Hering is lead author on a paper documenting the clinical outcomes of a Phase III clinical trial showing that pancreatic islet cell transplantation can prevent episodes of severe hypoglycemia in people who have type 1 diabetes and restore blood sugar awareness and control.

Sabarinathan Ramachandran, Ph.D., joins the Schulze Diabetes Institute to develop approaches aimed at establishing immune tolerance to allo- and xeno-islet transplants.

2017

With University support, the Schulze Diabetes Institute moves to newly renovated state-of-the-art laboratories in Moos Tower.

Videos

Our Mission

Through pioneering islet transplantation treatments and ongoing research efforts, our goal is to enable people to live diabetes-free lives.

Islet Research and Transplantation

For Dr. Christopher Burlak, islet research is personal. He's working towards a cure for his son, Jack.

On the Cusp of a Cure

The Schulze Diabetes Institute hopes its research will help people with type 1 diabetes achieve insulin independence. A donation from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is putting researchers closer to this goal.

Institute Announcement

Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation announces the $40 million pledge that funds the Schulze Diabetes Institute.

About the Institute

Researchers in the University of Minnesota’s Schulze Diabetes Institute are driven to reverse Type 1 Diabetes. Through pioneering islet transplantation treatments and ongoing research efforts, our goal is to enable people to live diabetes-free lives.

Save Research to Save Lives

Ann Strader is from Lakeville, MN. She is mother to two boys with type 1 diabetes. Join her call to Save Research to Save Lives.

Biomedical Discovery District

The Biomedical Discovery District is critical to the University's research in the health sciences and to our goal of preventing and finding treatments and cures to diabetes, infectious disease, neurological conditions, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Islet transplantation

The success of islet transplantation as a treatment for those with type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes is told through patient testimonials.