Sander Receives 3 Transformative Collaborative Project Awards from Beta Cell Biology Consortium (BCBC)

Dr. Maike Sander

August 24, 2011, La Jolla, CA - Dr. Maike Sander, Associate Professor in Pediatrics and Cellular & Molecular Medicine, was awarded over $2M collectively in 3 Transformative Collaborative Project Awards from the Beta Cell Biology Consortium (BCBC). Funded as the Principal Investigator of one project, and as a collaborator on two others, Sander will be leading a team of domestic and international collaborators to develop enhancer-based beta cell programming strategies. All three of the funded projects will contribute to the development of cell-based therapies to help those living with type 1 and severely progressed type 2 diabetes.

The grant is shared with Bing Ren, PhD, also from UC San Diego in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine, and Klaus Kaestner, PhD, from the University of Pennsylvania.

On Sander’s main project, she and her colleagues plan to identify pancreas and beta cell specific enhancers - a small component of a cell's genome that plays an important role in guiding the cell into its ultimate, specialized cell type. Once these enhancers are identified, Sander et al can then create an important tool for optimizing the "supply chain" of functional, transplantable beta cells. This tool will also allow the scientists to track the progress of beta cells after transplantation.

The second project Sander will be collaborating on involves the 3-D growth of pancreatic beta cells from human pluripotent stem cells. On this project, the research team plans to create structures that are similar to the fields of tissue in the embryo where the pancreas develops, to see if beta cell reprogramming and development is improved in this new context.

On the third project, Sander will be contributing to the investigation of new permissive environments for beta cell engraftment. The aim of this project is to increase the number of viable areas in the body where beta cells could be successfully transplanted.

Dr. Sander serves as a physician-scientist for UC San Diego’s new Pediatric Diabetes Research Center (PDRC). Launched the summer of 2008, the PDRC uniquely brings together top-ranked physicians and research scientists to investigate the causes and cure of type 1 diabetes.

“These grants are a perfect example of collaboration and translational medicine for a greater cause,” Sander remarks. “It’s not about who discovers the cure first. It’s about finding a cure – fast.”


Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age. However, half of the patients are diagnosed before the age of 20. The exact cause is unknown. Genetics, viruses, and environmental factors are thought to play a role in causing the autoimmune response that eventually leads to beta cell destruction.


Since its founding in 1965, UC San Diego’s School of Medicine has fostered world-renowned research in regenerative medicine, genetics, cellular and molecular medicine, and immunology. In order to provide the San Diego community with the best medical education and pediatric care, the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital joined in a special partnership to conduct clinical education and pediatric care from the Rady Children’s Hospital campus and clinics. Currently, physicians from UC San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital treat more than 1,000 children with type 1 diabetes every year.

Optimizing UC San Diego’s strengths in clinical care and research, the Pediatric Diabetes Research Center seeks to fuel its combined effort to prevent, cure, and treat diabetes.


The BCBC was created by NIH/NIDDK to advance development of a cell-based therapy for diabetes through collaborative and interdisciplinary research.

SCIENTIFIC CONTACT: Dr. Maike Sander, Assoc. Professor, Dept of Pediatrics and Cellular & Molecular Medicine, UC San Diego

Sander Laboratory Website:

Written by: Shivani Singh, M.S., Sr. Writer, Dept of Pediatrics at UC San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.