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Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge invests £13M into six new research projects

We’re thrilled to unveil the latest research funded by the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge – a ground-breaking partnership between us, the Steve Morgan Foundation and the charity JDRF.

Earlier this year, the Type 1 Grand Challenge called on scientists to submit research proposals to get us closer to new treatments for people with type 1 diabetes that tackle the root cause of the condition and restore their insulin-making beta cells 

Now, over £13 million of funding will support six outstanding research teamsmade up of 49 scientists, working at 22 different institutions in the UK and Europe.

Helping people make their own insulin

Professor David Hodson at the University of Oxford will lead a team to explore how insulin-boosting molecules, which sit on the surface of beta cells, could be harnessed to create better performing lab-grown beta cells.

They will also test to see if the specialised molecules could help protect transplanted beta cells from the immune system, or trigger new beta cells to grow inside the pancreas. 

Working to create an unlimited supply of elite lab-made beta cells that can swiftly respond to changing blood sugar levels will be the mission of the team led by Professor Shanta Persaud and Dr Aileen King, at King’s College London.

They'll utilise their expertise in how the human pancreas develops to innovate improved methods of turning stem cells into beta cells, and make sure they're well equipped to survive transplantation.

Professor Francesca Spagnoli, at King’s College London, will spearhead a multi-disciplinary team who will concentrate on keeping transplanted lab-made beta cells safe from harm. This will include developing a device that beta cells can live inside to protect them from the hostile environment they will face once inside the body. 

Searching for ways to help more people benefit from islet transplants will be the focus of Professor Shareen Forbes, at the University of Edinburgh, and her team.

Islet transplants involving taking clusters of cells from a donor pancreas and injecting them into the liver of someone with type 1 diabetes. The team will investigate if delivering drugs packaged inside micro-capsules alongside islet transplants could help donated cells produce more insulin and survive for longer. 

Stopping the immune attack’s harm

A team led by Dr James Pearson, at Cardiff University, have been awarded funding to investigate how the time of day impacts the effectiveness of an immunotherapy, named interleukin-2 (IL-2).

They will study how cells, which help to shield beta cells from the type 1 diabetes immune attack, respond to IL-2 throughout the day to find the best time to give it to stop type 1 diabetes in its tracks.  

Dr Danijela Tatovic, at Cardiff University, will head up a team to explore if combining different immunotherapies could make them more effective at protecting beta cells and slowing the progression of type 1 diabetes.

Her team will run a clinical trial testing two promising immunotherapies, abatacept and IL-2, in people recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to understand how best to combine the treatments.  

Take a deeper dive into all these incredible projects on the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge website.

Our latest awards take the total amount the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge has awarded in 2023 to over £18 million, following the Steve Morgan Foundation’s momentous £50 million pledge.

We’ll keep you updated on the progress of this extraordinary research as our growing squad of scientists help us step closer to a cure.

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