As the Chair of the SVI Foundation, I have had the privilege of seeing into the future of type 1 diabetes research, through pathways to treat, prevent and cure the chronic disease.
Type 1 diabetes affects more than 120,000 Australians, with at least six more diagnosed every day. I have experienced the devastation it can cause first hand, having lost my only child Danielle to the disease at just 32 years of age. Since then I have devoted my life and considerable resources to the search for a cure, which may be unfolding before our eyes thanks to work involving SVI.
In late 2007, a Melbourne woman, Elaine Robinson, became one of the first Australians to be successfully transplanted with insulin- producing islet cells, through the Australian Islet Transplantation Program (ITP).
This type of transplant surgery has been successful thanks to a consortium involving groups at SVI, St. Vincent’s Hospital and Austin Health in Melbourne,
Westmead Hospital in Sydney and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide. The ITP Consortium has carried out a total of 38 transplants into
18 patients. Eight of these recipients are now completely insulin independent!
Islet transplantation is a therapy for type 1 diabetes that is currently used when insulin treatment fails. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas ceases to produce insulin, which must be administered several times a day, lifelong, to reduce blood sugar to healthy levels.
In some people, this insulin treatment can suddenly drop blood sugar to dangerous levels, leading at times to a life-threatening loss of consciousness through severe hypoglycaemia.
While the ITP program is currently aimed at people with severe hypoglycaemia, further research may lead to a more generally available clinical procedure.
Much of the funding for the program so far has been provided by the Federal Government, with the former Minister for Health and now Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott making the initial $30m commitment. State Governments also have contributed.

These arrangements are transitioning to a new funding model and there has been considerable concern as to how a shortfall might impact on a program which has already been so successful. Through a major contribution from me and other generous donors around Australia, as well as fundraising events like the annual Ball I host each year, we are endeavouring to cover the shortfall to ensure the program continues ange to deliver hope to people with type 1 diabetes.
Having had a close association with Elaine Robinson and other ITP recipients I know what a difference it has made to their day to day lives.
All proceeds from this year’s Susan Alberti Medical Research Foundation Signature Ball will benefit the Islet Transplant Program. The event will be held on Saturday August 4 at Melbourne’s Crown Towers. More information is enclosed
in this edition of The Edman.