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Making immunotherapy research bigger, smarter and faster

Project summary

Immunotherapies work by retraining the immune system, and scientists hope they could stop or prevent the immune attack behind Type 1 diabetes. They’re testing different immunotherapies right now, but we need to speed up progress. Professor Colin Dayan will expand a network of immunotherapy research teams and improve the clinical trials process to help make these treatments available for people with Type 1 as soon as possible.

Background to research

Type 1 diabetes happens when the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. But it’s one of the few autoimmune conditions without a treatment – called an immunotherapy – to prevent or stop this immune attack. By retraining the immune system, scientists hope we could slow the progression of Type 1 diabetes in people who have just been diagnosed, or prevent it entirely.

We established the Type 1 Diabetes UK Immunotherapy Consortium with JDRF in 2015: a network of scientists and specialist labs working together to help immunotherapy research to thrive. Professor Dayan established 15 dedicated research centres across the UK. So far, they have increased the number of people with Type 1 diabetes taking part in vital research five-fold, completed three ground-breaking clinical trials and are running nine more. 

With the Consortium up and running, we now need to accelerate progress even further to make sure the benefits of research reach people with Type 1 diabetes as soon as possible. 


Research aims

Professor Dayan will build on the Consortium’s foundation and focus on making the immunotherapy trials it coordinates bigger, smarter and faster. 

The team plans to increase the number of research centres from 15 to 25 – so more trials can be run in the UK and more people with Type 1 diabetes can take part. They also want to make trials more efficient and find new ways of measuring how well an immunotherapy works. This could mean trials are run in half the time, with half the number of volunteers. 

This will allow scientists to collect the evidence needed to get an immunotherapy licenced and made available to people with Type 1 diabetes, sooner than is currently possible.


Potential benefit to people with diabetes

A licensed immunotherapy could allow doctors to intervene quickly when someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, to help protect the insulin-producing cells in their pancreas that are still alive. This will make it easier for people to keep their blood sugars within target range, have fewer hypos and potentially reduce their risk of developing complications in the future.

In the longer term, immunotherapies could also be given to people who don’t yet have Type 1 diabetes but are at high risk, to prevent them from developing the condition. And finally, in combination with other treatments, immunotherapies could form part of a cure for people living with Type 1 diabetes today. 


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