JDRF Canada and Stem Cell Network announce second recipient of the J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes

October 23, 2023 (Ottawa/Toronto) – JDRF Canada and the Stem Cell Network are pleased to announce Dr. Sing-Young Chen as the 2023 J. Andrew McKee Fellow in Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). The announcement was made today in Toronto at the Till & McCulloch Meetings, Canada’s premier stem cell and regenerative medicine conference.

The J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes, aims to help accelerate Canadian research, develop talent and enhance Canada’s global leadership in T1D research. The Fellowship Program is named in honour and memory of John Andrew McKee, who was Past President and CEO at JDRF and a long-standing member and Chair of SCN’s Board of Directors. Andrew played a significant role in developing the future of both organizations and believed deeply in the important role of science in making Canada a better place for all.

Dr. Chen’s work focuses on understanding sex differences in beta-cell resilience to stresses associated with T1D. In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-secreting beta-cells are subject to many stresses – for example, they are attacked by the immune system and there is a high demand for insulin. Pancreatic islets from females are more resilient to these stresses than islets from males and can survive to keep making insulin. Dr. Chen’s research seeks to understand and leverage these sex differences with a view to develop cell therapies that will thrive in a T1D environment.

Dr. Chen completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Sydney, studying biochemistry and physiology. During her undergraduate studies, she was fortunate to take part in a summer research program at Vanderbilt University, which is when she first became interested in islet biology. Then, she completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales, where she studied obesity and obesity-related diseases, with a focus on physiology and drug development.

Dr. Chen is now at UBC for her postdoctoral training where she is investigating sex differences in islet responses to stress, with the hope of developing novel treatments for type 1 diabetes.

Quick Facts:

  • T1D is an autoimmune disease that affects the daily lives of approximately 300,000 Canadians. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
  • Stem cell therapy holds immense promise for the treatment of people with diabetes, by offering the potential for the body to one day start producing its own insulin again.
  • The J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes, supported by JDRF and SCN will award one yearlong fellowship per year through 2026, with a value of $60,000 CAD per year, for a fellow working at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC. Applications for the 2024 Fellowship are set to open on November 1, 2023.
  • The JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC was established in December 2021 and is exclusively focused on research to cure T1D. 


“On behalf of all of us at the Stem Cell Network, I’d like to extend a very big congratulations to Dr. Chen. Dr. Chen’s work in advancing our understanding of islet cell biology represents a crucial step in our relentless pursuit of a cure for type 1 diabetes, a disease that impacts the lives of over 300,000 Canadians. We are honoured to continue the legacy of the late Andrew McKee through our ongoing partnership with JDRF Canada that supports research fellows dedicated to advancing treatments and therapies for type 1 diabetes. Andrew had an unwavering belief that innovative advances would be forged by the next generation of brilliant minds. We are proud to be part of this journey as we strive to turn Andrew’s vision into a reality.” – Cate Murray, President and CEO, Stem Cell Network

“Andrew McKee was an impactful leader for JDRF and was a significant driving force behind the kind of T1D research that this Fellowship supports. We are so pleased to continue our partnership with SCN to provide new opportunities for trainees at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC, which alongside its exciting research goals has an outstanding multidisciplinary training program. Dr. Chen’s work will help us better understand the mechanisms behind beta cells which will help move us ever closer to cures for type 1 diabetes.” – Jessica Diniz, President and Co-CEO, JDRF Canada

“We all go into science with high hopes of making a real impact to change lives for the better. This fellowship supports me to do just that, not only with funding, but also by connecting incredible networks of scientists, clinicians, and stakeholders to share knowledge and ideas that drive research forward in the right directions. Science is often described as a team sport, but it’s more than that – it’s a conglomeration of many diverse, colourful, passionate teams all working together to pursue a common goal, and I am thrilled to be a part of it!” – Dr. Sing-Young Chen, new J. Andrew McKee Fellow in Type 1 Diabetes

About the Stem Cell Network: The Stem Cell Network (SCN) is a Canadian not-for-profit that supports stem cell and regenerative medicine research; training the next generation of highly qualified personnel; and knowledge mobilization and transfer of stem cell and regenerative medicine research. From the lab to the clinic, SCN’s goal is to power life-saving therapies and technologies through regenerative medicine research for the benefit of all. Created in 2001, with support from the Government of Canada, the Network has grown from a few dozen labs to more than 270 world-class research groups, supporting over 250 research projects and 30 clinical trials. Since its inception, over 25 biotech companies have been catalyzed or enhanced and more than 6,400 highly qualified personnel have been trained. In 2021, the Government of Canada demonstrated its continuing trust and support in SCN with an investment of $45 million for the 2022–2025 period.

About JDRF: JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our goal is to raise funds to support the most advanced international T1D research and progressively remove the impact of this disease from people’s lives – until we achieve a world without it. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.ca.

SCN Media Contact:

Samantha Rae Ayoub

Vice-President, Communications & Knowledge Mobilizationsrae@stemcellnetwork.ca

Media contact JDRF:

Ruth Kapelus
National Content and Media Relations Manager

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