Putting Santa Barbara on the Global Map of Diabetes Research

By Giving List Staff   |   November 17, 2023

Santa Barbara has earned global recognition as a premier destination for “sand, sun, and sea” vacations. Yet, one lesser-known facet of this beachfront haven is its pivotal role in pioneering international diabetes research and treatment. Santa Barbara holds the distinction of being the birthplace of insulin production and administration in America, a groundbreaking achievement dating back to 1922. Leading this historic endeavor was the founder of Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI), Dr. William Sansum.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t know about Dr. Sansum’s legacy in Santa Barbara,” says SDRI Executive Director Ellen Goodstein, Esq., MEd. “Dr. Sansum was the first person in the United States to manufacture and administer insulin to save the lives of those living with diabetes, making Santa Barbara a mecca for diabetes care.”

SDRI’s mission is to improve the lives of people impacted by diabetes, with research at the core of our mission. Our work has led to critical advances in the treatment of all types of diabetes, garnering national and global recognition.

It’s been over a century since Dr. Sansum introduced insulin production protocols in the U.S., and nearly 80 years (1944) since he founded SDRI to continue to advance diabetes research into the future. Today SDRI is the renowned jewel in the crown of diabetes research and development.

“SDRI is respected locally and globally for our research in diabetes. Our scientists are not only developing and researching life-changing therapies, our team is also trusted and respected by industry companies to help advance their research initiatives,” continues Goodstein.

Another prominent figure in SDRI’s legacy is Dr. Lois Jovanovic, who dedicated 26 years to the institute. Dr. Jovanovic’s pioneering research changed the global protocol for women with diabetes in pregnancy, resulting in uncomplicated pregnancies and healthy babies where before there was likelihood of an early miscarriage or a stillborn baby.

Kara Hornbuckle, SDRI’s Director of Development, can speak to what this means, to her personally and to women across the globe. “I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for most of my life,” she says. “Dr. Jovanovic paved the way for women like me to be able to have children. People who know of Dr. Jovanovic’s work – and are familiar with the risks of diabetes during pregnancy – will refer their patients to SDRI. “

Dr. Jovanovic’s vision also led SDRI researchers to develop what they refer to as the artificial pancreas system – a wearable device that takes a real-time measure of blood sugar, delivering a precisely calibrated dose of insulin to manage glucose control 24 hours a day. 

While SDRI’s reach and influence are global, Santa Barbara’s demographics help to inform a new initiative being conducted here. The Latino community comprises nearly half of the greater Santa Barbara population, said Dr. Samuel Klein, SDRI’s Chief Scientific Officer. 

“People of Latino backgrounds are at much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the complications of diabetes than the Caucasian population. SDRI is dedicated to addressing the health issues of this underserved population by actively collaborating with leaders in the Latino community and launching a series of new clinical studies aimed at transforming the health of our local Latino population,” added Dr. Klein.

With the support of a generous public, Santa Barbara’s world-renowned Sansum Diabetes Research Institute will continue the great strides begun in 1922.


Sansum Diabetes Research Institute

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(805)682-7640 ext. 246
Director of Development: Kara Hornbuckle


Dedicated to improving the lives of people impacted by diabetes through research, education, and care.

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Living with type 1 diabetes since age seven made my journey to motherhood uniquely challenging. Thankfully, I found invaluable support and care at SDRI through the exceptional guidance of Dr. Kristin Castorino. Throughout my pregnancy, Dr. Castorino’s weekly meetings extended beyond diabetes management; she genuinely cared about my emotional well-being. Our hour-long one-on-one sessions demonstrated the exceptional level of care I received. Working with Dr. Castorino at SDRI felt serendipitous. Her close collaboration with the late Dr. Lois Jovanovic, SDRI’s visionary Chief Scientific Officer, whose pioneering work transformed diabetes care during pregnancy, was profoundly meaningful. Dr. Castorino’s unwavering support turned my dream of motherhood into a beautiful reality.

Halle Wray, SDRI Patient

Our $20 Million Campaign in the Fight Against Diabetes – Every Dollar Counts

“Creating a state-of-the-art research facility is critical for our future,” adds Hornbuckle. “Much of our facility has not been updated since the 1960s. Our team is seeking philanthropic support to make our future possible.”

Part of our campaign will also support the recruitment of healthcare professionals whose dedication will help bring about a positive transformation for people with all types of diabetes, explained Dr. Klein.

“We can make significant progress, yet it is imperative that we enhance our capabilities to further engage in groundbreaking work.” said Dr. Klein.

To learn more about SDRI’s $20 million campaign, please visit https://www.sansum.org/campaign.

Key Supporters

Ann Jackson Family Foundation
Barker Foundation
Jerry and Geri Bidwell
Timothy and Louise Casey
Tom and Nancy Crawford
Virgil Elings
Norman Kurland
and Deborah David
La Centra Sumerlin Foundation
Fred and Joyce Lukas
Mosher Foundation
The Ogle Family
The Paskin Family Foundation
The Radaz Family
The Redman Family
Robert and Ruth Reingold
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree
Matthew and Natalie Rowe
Santa Barbara Foundation
William K. Bowes, Jr.
Etty Yenni