Diabetes Research Institute Foundation Canada

DRIFCan is dedicated to funding research to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.


Who We Are

The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation Canada (DRIFCan) was established in 2005 to raise unrestricted funds for type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D) research. Today, DRIFCan continues to raise funds to support further research for the Edmonton Protocol, a method of implanting pancreatic islets to treat T1D.

The lead Edmonton investigator is Dr. James Shapiro, Canada Research Chair in Transplant Surgery and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

Dr. Shapiro, director of the Clinical Islet Transplant Program at the University of Alberta, leads several ongoing clinical trials in islet transplantation. To date, he and his team have performed over 500 islet transplants—more than any other islet transplant centre.

“Dr. Shapiro is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of islet transplant technologies. As a transplant surgeon, Shapiro is renowned for determining how to administer human islets, resulting in insulin independence for many diabetes patients, in some cases lasting years.”Dr. Paul Laikind, President and CEO, ViaCyte


Given the exciting results demonstrated in pre-clinical studies, funding for Dr. Shapiro’s world-renowned research is of the utmost importance. Your generous support can translate these promising results into a novel new therapy to help millions of patients.

Dr. James Shapiro

James Shapiro was born in Leeds, England, son of a family doctor. He studied medicine in Newcastle and trained in surgery in Bristol. He developed a longstanding interest in islet transplantation as a medical student. He joined the faculty at the University of Alberta (U of A) in 1998 where he now holds the Canada Research Chair in Transplantation Surgery and Regenerative Medicine. He directs the living donor liver transplant and the islet transplant programs in Edmonton. He was the lead investigator on the famous “Edmonton Protocol” islet cell transplant treatment for diabetes.

He is the Project 1 lead for the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP), a national initiative designed to increase organ and tissue donation in Canada and enhance the lives of Canadians for whom transplantation offers a ‘second chance’ at health. James is actively researching ex vivo organ transplant repair. This year his team began the first human trials with embryonic stem cell-derived insulin producing cells transplanted in an immunoisolation device.

James is the recipient of a Hunterian Medal from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the gold medal in surgery, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Board of Directors

Melanie Hibbard, Executive Director

Melanie plays the role of executive director at DRIFCan, but her involvement with the organization and the T1D (Type 1 Diabetes) world does not stop there. After both of her young sons were diagnosed with T1D, Melanie saw the impact that the disease had on her boys first-hand and became involved with volunteering with the TD1 community. She has participated in many community initiatives, including walks and galas to bring awareness to schools through a kids walk program, and raising money for T1D research.

Her involvement and dedication to DRIFCan helps fulfill her dream to help work towards a cure for T1D, while also supporting her local community. Melanie has been a board member, chair of outreach community support, mentor to newly diagnosed families, participated in the kids walk program and served as elementary school ambassador to bring awareness of T1D.

After working in the banking industry for many years, Melanie became an entrepreneur and now runs her own home-based business.

Mark Bosworth, Board Chair

Mark is an organizational development professional and also the father of a boy who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of two. He is committed to helping DRIFCan achieve its mission to help accelerate the cure for a disease that affects many of his loved ones.

As board chair of DRIFCan, Mark acts as liaison to James and his team to ensure their needs are being met to the best of DRIFCan’s ability. Mark plays a lead role in ensuring DRIFCan has a focused plan to accomplish the specific goals and objectives required by James and his team.

As a principal with KESA, an Alberta-based organizational development company, Mark has built a successful practice that focuses on assisting organizations in understanding and shaping change.
Since 1998, Mark has served a diverse range of clients both locally and internationally in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, as well numerous National Hockey League teams and officials.

Mark holds a master of arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University, a bachelor of physical education from the University of Alberta, and a post-graduate certificate in executive coaching from Royal Roads University as well as numerous other certificates.

Matt Mandrusiak, Vice Chair

Matt Mandrusiak is the father of an eight-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of two. With no history of diabetes in their families, Matt and his wife Kelly had to learn how to manage Ella’s illness.

Matt says their family has been inspired by Ella’s resilience and positive outlook and the way she proudly answers questions about her glucose monitor and pump.

As donor advisor at the Edmonton Community Foundation, Matt works closely with caring donors who want to make Edmonton a better place for everyone. He was drawn to DRIFCan because of the demonstrated commitment of the entire organization, from James down, who want to improve life for people like his daughter.

With more than a decade of professional experience in the charitable sector, Matt wants to use his skills to help accelerate the cure by supporting the work of DRIFCan.

Ryan Casey, Treasurer

Ryan was diagnosed (with T1D) in 2002 at the age of 10 when his Grade 4 teacher recognized many of the symptoms of diabetes and alerted his parents.

Thanks to excellent medical care and support at the Stollery Clinic, Ryan successfully graduated high school and went on to receive a business degree from University of Alberta.

As a relationship manager with HSBC Bank, Ryan manages a $100-million lending portfolio, as well as advising clients from a wide-range of business sectors. As a new member of DRIFCan’s board, Ryan is looking forward to applying his business skills and connections to help advance DRIFCan’s mission.

His commitment to raising awareness about T1D is demonstrated through his long involvement with JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Kid’s N Us conference, including being the closing speaker with his father for two years, and helping to run the teen talk sessions.

Ryan has also been involved with a variety of volunteer and charity positions including helping to run an after-school reading program, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Junior Achievement through work.

Stacey Scott Nykolyshyn, Secretary

Stacey is an associate certified coach and accredited facilitator, with a passion for healthcare and education, who brings executive coaching, fund development, governance, and relationship building skills to the board. She believes strongly in the role that philanthropy plays in taking world-class clinical research from bench to bedside.

Her related experience spans two decades directing development and donor services with the McGill University-affiliated Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Alberta Cancer Foundation, MacEwan University and the University of Alberta, where she continues to advocate for donors and foster positive relationships with stakeholders.

Marilee Byers, Board Member

Marilee, whose son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 14 months while living in Whitehorse, Yukon, quickly learned the challenges of managing a diabetic baby, especially without big-city support. She and her husband had no experience with diabetes and set out to learn as much as they could about the illness. In the 13 years since then, Marilee has become a volunteer, advocate and mentor.

She helped organize the first Whitehorse Walk to Cure Diabetes in the spring of 2005 and continued to run the walk annually in Whitehorse until the family moved to Alberta in 2016. She also sits on a National Diabetes Walk committee and a National Grassroots Committee for Diabetes Advocacy. She has travelled several times to Ottawa with youth representatives to advocate for federal government funding for diabetes research.

Marilee became a diabetes mentor in 2011 and continues to assist newly diagnosed families in finding the resources available to them in their communities.

In 2016, Marilee and her husband, Andrew, participated in James’s human trials to help advance the team’s research.

Marilee’s family, including her son and two daughters, are actively involved in fundraising toward a cure.

Nancy Gall, Board Member

Nancy is continuing the legacy of her late husband, Ray Gall, who dedicated his time and resources to DRIFCan both as a board member and a funder.

Ray Gall’s tireless advocacy for DRIFCan inspired his colleagues at the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) Local 8 and the Canadian Building Trades to establish The Ray Gall Memorial Professorship to benefit diabetes research at the University of Alberta.

Nancy is a dedicated community volunteer, who brings her leadership and fund-raising experience to DRIFCan’s board.

Jack Hubler, Board Member

Jack has been leading successful fundraising campaigns for 25 years through his union, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 488, starting with his leadership of the Dollars Against Diabetes, or the DAD’s DAY program. Through his involvement with his union and the Building Trades of Alberta, Jack has donated his time and energy to several diabetes and other medical foundations.

Pat McCormack, Board Member

Pat McCormack, diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes near the beginning of his career with the Edmonton Police Service, overcame the obstacles of the disease and enjoyed a successful and fulfilling 28-year career as a dog handler and homicide detective.

A steadfast advocate and volunteer, he was involved with JDRF for 20 years, including eight as chair of the Edmonton chapter. Pat is motivated by the belief that James’s team is on the way to finding a cure for diabetes. Being too familiar with the disease himself, he wants to help find the cure so that future generations do not have to deal with T1D, and so that kids can just be kids.

Rod McKay, Board Member

Rod McKay is a passionate individual with strong family values. He grew up in Edmonton with his four sisters. He now has a family of his own, (wife Brenda, kids and grandkids). He has been part of UA Local 488 for over 25 years. Rod’s trades are pressure welding and Red Seal Steam fitting.

He served as the Assistant Director in the Alberta Pipe Trades College for many years, and as a Business Agent with Local 488. His present role is in the capacity of the Assistant Business Manager, and also serves as a Trustee on the Educational Trust and the Supplementary Benefit Trust Funds. Rod enjoys golfing, and travel with his family.

Rod joined the Board of Directors for DRIFCan in May of 2018. His passion for helping fund the cure is very personal as his cousins son has Type 1. The connection he has with the Alberta Building Trades and keeping their support local makes this a great partnership.