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Using my family experience with type 2 diabetes within my research – Ed’s story

Ed sitting outside smiling

Oladapo Edward Olaniru

I love my work and am extremely passionate about helping support Black people go into careers in science, medicine and research.

Oladapo Edward Olaniru, 38, is a Research Associate within the Department of Diabetes at King’s College London. Here he talks about his research and what Black History Month means to him. 

Journey with diabetes

Family experience with type 2

I had two main motivations for getting into diabetes research. My dad was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when he was 70. And I come from Nigeria so seeing the way type 2 disproportionately affects young people in developing countries also had an impact.

My dad was diagnosed and treated in Nigeria. He managed to live about five more years before he died from complications of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is more commonly associated with type 1.

Dad’s experiences made me want to know more about diabetes. How could he have lived a good life and be diagnosed with type 2 at his age?

I am now very careful with my own health. I stay active, watch my diet and check my sugar levels. I know the risks of type 2 diabetes.


Researching islet transplants

Researching the condition to help my dad motivated me to carry out my PhD in a diabetes-related area. I now work in diabetes research. 

My current work aims to make islet transplants – where insulin-producing cells from a deceased donor are implanted in the liver of someone with type 1 – more effective. There aren’t enough donors for widespread transplants. So, the best approach is to produce these cells in labs in large quantities. The problem is that these lab-produced cells are not yet functional. My research investigates how the cells develop. We track them and see what changes, what makes them better, and how they are impacted by proteins. When we know more, then we can translate this information to the lab and see if we can improve the cell functions. 

Black History Month

I love my work and am extremely passionate about helping support Black people go into careers in science, medicine and research. When I started teaching, a young boy came up to me and said he’d never been taught by a Black person. He was very happy that somebody who looked like him was teaching him. 

There is research out there that suggests the attainment gap might be due to not having Black mentors that students can look up to. A lack of role models from a range of ethnic backgrounds could send discouraging messages to Black people. One of my roles is to help create a pipeline to these jobs and areas. I look through students’ personal statements and encourage them. It’s been really successful. I think this kind of informal help could really impact people in deciding what they want to do with their lives.

Black History Month is vital in recognising the huge contribution of Black people to the different facets of life. One month is not sufficient to recognise the contributions of Black people to medicine and science – but it is a very good start.


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