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Biggest-ever philanthropic gift to diabetes research brings type 1 cure closer


Today, as part of celebrations marking 100 years since insulin was first used to treat type 1 diabetes, a new partnership between the Steve Morgan Foundation, Diabetes UK and JDRF has been announced to transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes and lead the race towards a cure. 

With an incredible and unprecedented £50 million investment from the Steve Morgan Foundation, the partnership will fund game-changing type 1 diabetes research that will pave the way to the development of new treatments and a cure.  

The Steve Morgan Foundation’s £50 million donation is the largest ever single gift in the UK for diabetes research, and this is the first time that Diabetes UK and JDRF have partnered with a Foundation to deliver research at this scale.  

Beyond insulin 

Steve and Sally Morgan are driven by their personal connection with the condition – their son Hugo was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven (the Morgans are pictured above). They know how relentless managing this serious condition is and are making their generous, game-changing donation to drive innovations and breakthroughs in type 1 diabetes research, with the goal of ultimately finding a cure.  

The monumental breakthrough 100 years ago when insulin was first used to treat a person with type 1 diabetes has since saved the lives of millions of people, but managing type 1 with insulin is exhausting, avoiding blood sugar lows and highs near impossible and many people will develop diabetes complications. This new partnership aims to move beyond insulin in its current form as the only treatment for type 1 diabetes and get us closer to a cure.  

Over five years, the Foundation’s donation will fund the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge. The Challenge will call on scientists to come up with research ideas that are bigger, bolder, and more collaborative than ever seen before. 

We listened to world-class scientists and people with diabetes to help narrow down the research areas that the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will focus on. Three areas were identified as carrying the most potential to improve the lives of people with type 1 and propel us towards a cure. 

Bigger pots, bigger ideas 

The Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge is a very different and exciting way of funding research. It will support projects of a greater scale, bringing the world’s best scientists together to kick-start new areas of exploration and innovative thinking. This could see us take huge leaps instead of small steps towards a cure for type 1 diabetes. 

The first calls for research proposals are expected to open later this year. These will focus on treatments to replace or rescue beta cells and next generation insulins. 

At Diabetes UK we invest more than £6 million every year into new research projects looking at all types of diabetes and its complications. The Steve Morgan Foundation’s £50 million investment will come on top of our usual research budget, which will continue to support scientists working to prevent and cure type 2 diabetes, deepen our understanding of rarer types of diabetes, and tackle diabetes complications. 

Steve and Sally Morgan, on behalf of the Steve Morgan Foundation, said: 

“We’re so incredibly proud to announce this landmark partnership with Diabetes UK and JDRF UK. With the expertise of the two leading diabetes charities in the UK, and our shared ambition to improve the lives of people with type 1 diabetes, the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will supercharge type 1 diabetes research, with the aim of having new treatments and ultimately a cure. 

“We know from our own experience the impact that type 1 diabetes has on family life – it’s something we carry with us every day. But with research we can change that, and allow people with type 1 diabetes and their families to live without this relentless, lifelong condition. 

“We want this ground-breaking partnership to inspire and motivate other funders to join in the shared ambition of the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge, paving the way for a better future for those living with type 1 diabetes and their families.” 

Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said: 

“We’re delighted to launch this prestigious partnership with the Steve Morgan Foundation and JDRF UK. This unparalleled investment will change the course of type 1 diabetes research forever, galvanising the diabetes research community and accelerating us towards a cure that will change millions of lives not only in the UK but worldwide. 

“We’re incredibly grateful to Steve and Sally Morgan for their £50 million investment and their commitment to transforming the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. This is a call to arms for the scientific community, and we look forward to working with JDRF UK to unite the brightest minds in type 1 diabetes research to fuel new breakthroughs, together. 

“For the last 100 years insulin has been the only treatment for the condition, but this pivotal moment for type 1 diabetes marks the dawn of a new century of discovery. Type 1 diabetes is relentless, but so are we, and this investment catapults us towards a world where type 1 diabetes finally relents, and diabetes can do no harm.”  

Karen Addington, Chief Executive at JDRF UK, said: 

“This ground-breaking partnership, the UK’s largest ever single philanthropic gift for type 1 diabetes research, will catalyse medical research in a way never done before. In this golden age of type 1 diabetes research, advances in immunotherapy and stem cell research have put us within touching distance of functional cures.  

“JDRF was founded on the values and practice of collaboration, both in the UK and internationally, and together with the Steve Morgan Foundation and Diabetes UK, we will drive research further, leading from the UK and drawing on JDRF’s global network of research excellence. 

“I always think about the critically ill, eleven-year-old boy, Leonard Thompson whose life was saved 100 years ago, the first person ever to receive a dose of insulin. The Nobel Prize winning discovery of insulin was one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. Together, through the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge we will match the ambition of those scientists a century ago in our drive and expertise to cure type 1 diabetes.” 


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