We’re delighted to announce our continued commitment to revolutionise the treatment of Type 1 diabetes, by awarding £490,000 – in partnership with JDRF – to fund the next generation of immunotherapy research.
Immunotherapies are treatments designed to retrain the immune system to stop or prevent the immune attack that causes Type 1 diabetes. In the last 15 years, these types of treatments have become routine for autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, but Type 1 diabetes has been left behind. We’re working to change this.
In order for new treatments to reach people with Type 1 diabetes, they need to be tested in clinical trials. Our new funding will aim to fast-track this process – and make immunotherapies a reality sooner – by supporting the Type 1 Diabetes UK Immunotherapy Consortium for a further three years. This network of top scientists and facilities was set up in 2015 when we invested £2.8 million, with further co-funding from JDRF.
Professor Colin Dayan, who will expand the Immunotherapy Consortium with the new award, said:
“We will focus on making immunotherapy research bigger, smarter and faster. We plan to increase the number of clinical trials being run in the UK and make each trial more efficient, so they can be conducted in half the time and with half the number of volunteers. This will enable us to collect the evidence required to get an immunotherapy licenced, and made available in the diabetes clinic, sooner than is currently possible.”
So far, the consortium has increased the number of people with Type 1 diabetes taking part in vital research five-fold, completed three ground-breaking clinical trials and is currently running nine more. It now aims to have a clinical trial centre within 50 miles of half of the UK population, so that more children and adults with Type 1 diabetes can take part in vital research; speeding up the development of new treatments.
Across the UK there are approximately 10,000 people every year diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. A licensed immunotherapy could allow doctors to intervene quickly at diagnosis, to treat the underlying cause of their condition and help protect the insulin-producing cells in their pancreas that are still functioning.
Ruby Wain was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2017 and took part in one of the consortium’s trials soon after. She said:
“My doctor has told me I’m still making some of my own insulin, so my pancreas is still doing some of the work for me. It’s hard to say what would be the case if I hadn’t taken part in the trial, but I’m really glad I did. That extra support right at the start was invaluable for me.”
Scientists believe, in the future, immunotherapies could also be given to people at high risk of getting Type 1 diabetes, before any of their insulin-producing cells have been destroyed, to try and stop the condition from developing. And they could potentially form part of a cure for people already living with Type 1 diabetes.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said:
“Our new funding builds upon the excellent work undertaken to date by the Immunotherapy Consortium, enabling UK scientists to take bold steps and make sure the benefits of research reach people with Type 1 diabetes as soon as possible.
“Immunotherapies would represent a major shift in the way we combat Type 1 diabetes – moving us from treating the symptoms to treating the cause. In the future, this could mean we have ways of halting the immune system’s attack in people newly diagnosed, potentially protecting them against serious complications, and of preventing the immune attack entirely in people at risk – helping to make Type 1 diabetes a condition of the past.”