Little Castle on the Prairie

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Science  29 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5965, pp. 520-521
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5965.520

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In February 2007, banking mogul T. Denny Sanford donated $400 million to Sanford Health (a cluster of clinics in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, formerly known as Sioux Valley Hospital and Health)—one of the largest gifts ever bestowed on any U.S. hospital. Sanford Health officials subsequently announced what's known as the Sanford Project: a plan to cure type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes), a disorder in which immune cells destroy the body's beta cells, the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas, within Sanford's lifetime. Conquering diabetes is ambitious enough, but then the project declared it had already settled on the approach it would take: harnessing the body's ability to regenerate beta cells. The choice startled some diabetes scientists who saw equal or more promise in other approaches—stem-cell therapy or beta-cell transplants. And the ultimate goal of the Sanford Project may be even more audacious: enticing enough scientific talent to create a permanent biomedical hub, a Boston or San Diego, in the 46th most populous state in the union.