Edward “Ned” Dayton considers himself lucky. He survived childhood polio with no long-term effects.
Today, Dayton is engaged in the battle against another formidable disease—type 1 diabetes— which his youngest son, Michael, now 43, has had since age 4.
Another family member suffered from diabetes as well. “My cousin Corinne was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14,” says Dayton’s wife, Sherry Ann. “She eventually succumbed to the disease at age 58.”
But the Daytons are hopeful that diabetes research at the University of Minnesota’s Schulze Diabetes Institute (SDI) will bring about a cure. “In the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen polio eradicated and, hopefully, we can see the same for diabetes,” says Ned Dayton.
To help make that happen, the Edward Dayton Family Foundation recently contributed $150,000 to support a new SDI initiative to solve the shortcomings of immunosuppressive drugs. Islet transplants are already curing diabetes, but are not as widely used, in part because the immunosuppression drugs recipients must take have toxic side effects.
The SDI immunology initiative will help resolve the side effects related to immunosuppression, thus making islet transplantation treatment available to more people with diabetes.
“I think the U is doing a fabulous job—it’s one of the top research institutions,” Dayton says. “The work that they’ve done with transplants is simply extraordinary.”
Dayton’s earlier careers were in retail and real estate. Now he is focused on supporting philanthropic causes close to his heart through his family foundation, which he started with Sherry Ann and their five children.
The Daytons’ friends, MMF board chair Tom Olson and his wife, Meredith, encouraged their support of the University’s work. In 2004, the Olsons established the Carol Olson Memorial Diabetes Research Fund through MMF in memory of Tom’s sister, who died from complications of type 1 diabetes.
Last December, the Daytons and Olsons hosted an event in Wayzata, Minn., to educate friends and community members about the University’s quest for a type 1 diabetes cure. “I don’t think some people realized the work being done at the University and how far they’ve come,” says Dayton. “They definitely learned a lot, and some got really excited.”
Following that event, Olson also made a gift to the SDI’s new immunology initiative.
“I was inspired,” Dayton says of the Olsons’ gifts—adding that it prompted him to make his own gift.
Still, Dayton says, he wants to do more to help spread the word about the University’s work. That’s why he joined the MMF Diabetes Development Committee, which Olson chairs. Committee members serve as ambassadors to help advance diabetes fundraising efforts at the University of Minnesota.
“I think people should be excited about the research going on at the University,” he says. “They’re making great progress.”
U of M Immunology initiative
The University of Minnesota is raising funds to engage a world-renowned transplant immunology expert on a consulting basis and fill four full-time immunology positions to work on this high-impact program.