Lisa Hepner

Type 1 Diabetes
Director of the documentary The Human Trial (www.thehumantrial.com)

Born in Ottawa, Canada, Lisa has been producing non-fiction television and film for about as long as she’s had Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). She was diagnosed in 1991 while studying at the University of Edinburgh. The diagnosis came as a shock because—as is the case with 95% of newly diagnosed T1D patients—she had no family history of the disease. Lisa’s life changed in many ways that November night. At 21, she decided to change her career path from law to journalism, and then eventually, to film.

In 2011, Lisa had a particularly bad night of hypoglycemic attacks. It was enough to inspire Lisa, and her cinematographer husband, Guy Mossman, to make a film about T1D. “We wanted to make this invisible disease visible,” says Lisa. “It’s the first major film on diabetes.”

The documentary feature, The Human Trial (www.thehumantrial.com), has been in production for the last three years. The filmmaking team has been following ViaCyte, a small biotech company in San Diego, since they got the green light from the FDA to proceed to a Phase 1 human clinical trial in July 2014.

It’s an exciting film, and an exciting time for stem cell research, says the director. “How often do you get to go behind the scenes of a clinical trial that is using embryonic stem cells to potentially cure a major disease?” The answer is: rarely. And the filmmaking team is making the most of this opportunity. Their goal is to not only raise awareness about type T1D, but to shine a light on what it takes to push medical innovation forward in this country.

“It’s thrilling—on a personal and professional level—to be following this clinical trial as it unfolds,” Lisa says. “And without the funding from CIRM, ViaCyte wouldn’t be where it is today.”

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