JDRF Looks Within For New CEO

A 15-year veteran of JDRF will become its next president and chief executive officer and the first person living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to lead the nonprofit.

Aaron J. Kowalski, PhD, has served as the first chief mission officer of JDRF since 2014, and was appointed president and CEO, according an announcement last week by the New York City-based nonprofit. He succeeds Derek Rapp, who announced his decision to step down in October after serving nearly five years as CEO.

In his new role as CEO, Kowalski will join the Board of Directors of the T1D Fund, JDRF’s venture philanthropy fund accelerating life-changing solutions to treat, prevent, and cure T1D through catalytic commercial investments.

“I know first-hand the impact of type 1 diabetes on individuals and their families because my brother and I have lived with it for decades. I’m humbled to lead JDRF, the organization that has played such a key role in so many of the major T1D advances in recent history,” Kowalski said in a press release. Kowalski, 47, was diagnosed at age 13 following a similar diagnosis for his younger brother Stephen at the age of 3.

Kowalski has played a key role by outlining strategies to define JDRF’s therapy pipeline and accelerate progress in each development stage so that breakthroughs in the lab can be turned into real solutions for people living with the disease. He has worked closely with senior industry executives and leaders in academia, clinical care and government.

Kowalski was an early advocate of continuous glucose monitoring and artificial pancreas systems, mapping out the complex roadmap that teams of researchers followed to bring to reality a system that is now changing lives around the world.

With a doctorate in microbiology and molecular genetics from Rutgers, Kowalski began his career at JDRF as a scientific program manager in 2004. He became director of strategic research projects and developed a multi-million dollar initiative that transformed diabetes technology to improve blood sugar control, partnering closely with researchers, companies and regulators to overcome challenges that previously prevented technologies from moving forward.

Kowalski has published numerous articles in the field, including co-authoring the landmark New England Journal of Medicine study demonstrating the effectiveness of continuous glucose monitors in T1D.

As chief mission officer, Kowalski has been responsible for JDRF’s research portfolio. This has included supporting 75 human clinical trials this year to move therapies from research labs to the people who need them and advancing key areas like beta cell regeneration and replacement.

More recently, Kowalski launched JDRF’s work to advocate for open protocols, which enable automated insulin delivery systems to interact with devices made by other manufacturers, providing greater control and choice, and improved T1D outcomes.

Kowalski has served as a policy leader for JDRF, advising members of Congress and leaders of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure access to T1D therapies and regulatory frameworks that promote innovation. Earlier this month, he testified to the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on the critical importance of affordable insulin.

The announcement did not provide details of any contract or compensation. As chief mission officer, Kowalski earned $460,243, including a base of $381,551, according to JDRF’s Form 990 for the Fiscal Year Ending June 2018, filed in March. As CEO, Rapp earned total compensation last year of $897,460, including a base of $600,000; bonus and incentives of $150,000; and other compensation of $100,000 (comprised of a $75,000 housing allowance and $25,000 travel and expense allowance).

JDRF, formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, reported $230 million in total revenue for the Fiscal Year Ending June 2018, up from $202 million in the previous fiscal year when it ranked No. 95 in the NPT 100.