Robert W. Stone (at podium), president and CEO of the City of Hope National Medical Center, discusses the recent donations to help find a cure for diabetes.

DUARTE (CNS) — More than $50 million in private funding has the City of Hope research and treatment center setting the lofty goal today of curing Type 1 diabetes in six years.

The funding was donated to the hospital’s Diabetes and Metabolism Research Institute in part by the Wanek family, which controls Ashley Furniture, and some anonymous private benefactors.

“City of Hope scientists’ research has revolutionized the understanding and treatment of diabetes,” said Todd Wanek, CEO of Ashley Furniture. “It continues today as physicians and scientists gain systemic understanding of diabetes as a complex, multifaceted disease. Our family is extremely confident that City of Hope is the institution that will find a cure for the more than 1 million Americans who battle type 1 diabetes disease every day.”

Type I diabetes, formerly known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system slowly destroys insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas.

Diabetes — in particular type 2 —  is an urgent health problem in the Latino community. Their rates of diabetes are almost double those of non-Latino whites. According  a study listed by the American Diabetes Association, the prevalence of total diabetes (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) among all Hispanic/Latino groups was roughly 16.9 percent for both men and women, compared to 10.2 percent for non-Hispanic whites. However, when looking at Hispanic/Latino groups individually, it found that prevalence varied from a high of 18.3 percent for those of Mexican descent to a low of 10.2 percent for people of South American descent.

City of Hope officials said The Wanek Family Project for Type 1 Diabetes will create several programs that will seek a cure through immunotherapy approaches and research into beta cell transplantation.

In 1978, one of City of Hope’s researchers, Arthur D. Riggs, developed a synthetic human insulin used today by an estimated 1.5 million Americans with Type 1 diabetes and 27 million with Type 2 diabetes.

“City of Hope is best positioned to take on this challenge,” said Robert W. Stone, president and CEO of City of Hope. “This is thanks to our 40- year institutional legacy of pioneering treatment and research advances in diabetes.”

He added, “City of Hope is extremely grateful for the Wanek family’s significant gift that will enable the institution to forward Type 1 diabetes research, the results of which will have worldwide impact. We invite others to join the Wanek family and City of Hope as we continue to move even closer to a cure for Type 1 diabetes.”