Founded in Minnesota in 2004, Spring Point Project was born out of the passion of Tom Cartier to find a cure for his son, Cory, whose quality of life was stolen from him at age 10 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. When Tom learned of his son’s diagnosis in 1993, Tom went on a mission to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes to improve the life of his son and the tens of thousands of people afflicted with this disease.
Simultaneously, a physician, Bernhard Hering, MD, theorized that pig islets may help people with diabetes – pig tissue had been widely used to treat humans with other chronic diseases. Dr. Hering began work with the Schulze Diabetes Institute at the University of Minnesota to develop his concept that could eventually move pig islet transplantation from vision to practice.
Tom, along with other passionate parents and relatives of persons living with Type 1 diabetes, began a grassroots effort to make porcine islet transplantation a viable treatment option for people living with diabetes, in particular, the tens of thousands of people with difficult to manage diabetes. A unique partnership of parents, volunteers, business professionals, physicians, swine producers and researchers emerged, and the dream began to shape itself into a solid plan – the shortest path to the cure. The organization, Spring Point Project, would establish facilities to supply pigs needed for the pig islet cell transplant trials while the researchers at the Institute refined the science.
Dr. Hering conducted clinical trials from 2001 to 2003 and participants in the clinical trial had achieved insulin independence, maintained superior glycemic control, and severe hypoglycemic episodes were virtually eliminated. It was clear that human islet transplantation was on its way to becoming an acceptable treatment, and possible cure, for Type 1 diabetes. Results from this study were published in the February 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA.
Spring Point Project broke ground in 2006 on a site in western Wisconsin where the organization would build and operate a barrier facility to raise the specially selected medical-grade, high-health pigs. The facility would be in compliance with governmental regulations for islet cell trials in humans. The Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation Islet Resource Facility opened in February 2007 and the first pigs were born in the facility in November 2007.
Using innovative immunosuppressive protocols, a group led by Dr. Hering achieved prolonged reversal of diabetes without the need of additional insulin for more than six months, an unprecedented result. This result opened the way to proceed to a trial in patients with diabetes, a turning point in pig islet replacement therapy.
“My wife, Patty, and I became involved in the fight to find a cure for diabetes following the diagnosis of our son, Cory, with Type 1 diabetes. Since that time,
– Tom Cartier,