How the Helmsley Charitable Trust Takes on Diabetes

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is focused on Type 1 (“juvenile”) diabetes in a big way. Its giving goes to research toward a cure, technology for care, and programs for patients. Together these causes receive millions every year from the organization, which is relatively young and growing fast.

The trust gives hundreds of thousands in grants for straightforward research -- for example, $300,000 in 2009 for the New York Stem Cell Foundation, a non-profit that aims to shield stem cell research from the whims of politicians. That foundation provides a "safe haven" for scientists to work with stem cells and promotes the research with grants, fellowships, and symposia.

The HCT also focuses on big-picture issues. Research collaboration is a strong area of interesting, and the trust gave $26 million to the Jaeb Center for Health Research to create a database for storing longitudinal patient data about diabetes. The database will help scientists work together to speed research and cut down on duplicative work.

And for those suffering today, the trust puts money toward treatment technology. In 2012 it established the Type 1 Diabetes Emerging Technology Initiative, which seeks to invest in advances that improve T1D patients’ quality of life and medical outcomes. The specific areas of interest include glucose monitoring, insulin pumps, infusion sets, and dosing, as well as the emerging area of data connectivity (another "big-picture" topic). The ETI plans to distribute between 10 and 30 grants annually of up to $1 million each.

Recipients so far include the Park Nicollet Institute’s International Diabetes Center, which received $1.4 million to improve glucose reporting through an ambulatory glucose profile (AGP) report that provides a graphic depiction of glucose levels.

But the trust also focuses on children as a part of its giving. It established an initiative in 2010 to help fund summer camp programs for youth with Type 1 Diabetes, and the Camp Grants Initiative has disbursed over $3.8 million so far in to individual camps. These grants come in chunks between $10,000 and $100,000. Examples include Camp Nejada in New Jersey, which was established in 1958 and provides a setting for kids where diabetes is the norm.