Updated 7 September: Following our rapid research funding call in April, we are delighted to announce, in partnership with JDRF, Moorfields Eye Charity and Fight for Sight, a combined commitment of £400,198 to support five new research projects. Together these will help to drive forward our understanding of the impact of coronavirus on people with diabetes.
The coronavirus pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge to all of us. New research indicates that some people with diabetes are at a higher risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. The lockdown has changed peoples’ lives in many ways including their diet and activity levels, as well as access to crucial medical appointments. It’s been a particularly challenging and worrying time for people living with all types of diabetes.
That’s why we put out an urgent call in April for research on diabetes and coronavirus. Recognising the urgency for people with diabetes, we accelerated our usual funding application process, so that the research can benefit people with diabetes as rapidly as possible. After applications closed in May, we worked with our peer reviewers, Research Committee and Grants Advisory Panel to identify the most promising projects from the 54 applications submitted.
Today, we can announce that we are funding four projects. Our partnerships with JDRF and Moorfields Eye Charity mean that we are able to fund as much high quality research, and help to address as many unanswered questions, as possible.
Professor Kathleen Gillespie’s project, co-funded by JDRF, will contact 5,000 people with type 1 diabetes and their families, and test them for coronavirus antibodies. This will show which people have been previously infected with the virus. They’ll also complete a questionnaire about their experience managing diabetes during lockdown. This will provide important information about rates of coronavirus infection among those with type 1 diabetes and what impact having the virus has on the management of their condition. Learn more about Professor Gillespie's project.
Dr John Dennis from the University of Exeter will combine and study large health databases to look in detail at different characteristics of people with diabetes, such as their age, blood sugar levels and diabetes subtype, to understand better which people with the condition are greater risk of poor outcomes from coronavirus. Knowing how to spot high-risk people with diabetes will help healthcare professionals provide better care and advice to keep them healthy. Learn more about Dr Dennis's project.
Professor Naveed Sattar from the University of Glasgow plans to explore the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on risk factors for diabetes complications, including blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and body weight. His team will use health records to look at the impact of the pandemic on these risk factors and rates of diabetes complications over the next two years. The team will also identify what factors, like age or ethnicity, put people at higher risk of complications, to help us reduce inequalities in treatment. Learn more about Professor Sattar's project.
Dr Ranjan Rajendram’s project at Moorfields Eye Hospital, co-funded by Moorfields Eye Charity, will study people with diabetes whose treatments for diabetes-related loss of vision has been delayed by lockdown and will track the impact on their eye health. This could help to improve the care given to people with diabetes during the current, and any future, lockdown, and potentially prevent devastating sight loss. Learn more about Dr Rajendram's project.
Dr Miguel Bernabeu, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, co-funded by Fight for Sight, will investigate if people with diabetic retinopathy are at greater risk of developing complications from coronavirus and whether this is because the virus is more able to attack vital organs in people with diabetes. The results of the study will allow researchers to propose new ways of predicting coronavirus risk based on non-invasive imaging of the eye. Read more about Dr Bernabeu’s project.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson is the Director of Research here at Diabetes UK. She said:
"The coronavirus pandemic presents an especially challenging time for people living with diabetes. That’s why we are delighted to partner with JDRF and Moorfields Eye Charity and commit funding to four new projects that will provide much needed insights about the impact of coronavirus on people with diabetes. By understanding how the virus affects people with diabetes and who might be more at risk of poor outcomes, we will be better able to provide the care, information and reassurance they need during this difficult time."