Staff Report

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, established in May 1944 by world-renowned medical pioneer Dr. William Sansum, will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year.

Dr. Sansum was the first American to successfully manufacture insulin in the United States and administer it to patients with diabetes.

Dr. William Sansum is shown in his lab in Santa Barbara.

Two decades earlier, on May 31, 1922, he made history treating a terminally ill patient, Charles Cowan, with insulin, saving his life and countless others. Until the discovery of insulin, a diagnosis of diabetes was a death sentence. Dr. Sansum established Santa Barbara as America’s center for advances in diabetes research and treatment.

The doctor, who earned the nickname “Santa Barbara’s Genius” for his ground-breaking work with insulin, established Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI), which remains a global leader in diabetes research, education and care.

“The world beat a path to work with Grandpa,” recalled Armand Sansum, the doctor’s 84-year-old grandson. “The country was just overwhelmed with what he was able to contribute to civilization.”

Renowned SDRI physicians have carried on his legacy and important work with other life-changing medical breakthroughs over the decades.

“Dr. Lois Jovanovic, who served SDRI for over 25 years, developed the protocols adopted around the globe, giving a woman with diabetes the same chance of having a healthy baby as a woman without diabetes,” said Ellen Goodstein, SDRI’s Executive Director. “Before that, women with diabetes had less than a 20 percent chance of having a healthy baby.”

Dr. William Sansum

“In addition to our innovative work on the artificial pancreas, SDRI has expanded into type 2 diabetes with two important programs,” added Goodstein. “Mil Familias, a major research project to understand why diabetes is so common among Latino families, and then establish treatment interventions to reverse the upward trend of this disease, and Farming for Life, a program using “food as medicine” to improve outcomes for those affected by type 2 diabetes.”

In addition, SDRI offers a variety of educational programs for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in both English and Spanish. SDRI also offers education programs in Spanish and English for women with and at risk for gestational diabetes.

The institute has a series of celebrations planned throughout the year to commemorate the milestone. For more information, go to