September 14, 2015 — The diabetes community is a diverse and passionate one. However, we all agree on at least one thing – we want a world without type 1 diabetes (T1D). This is JDRF’s vision, and it’s one we share proudly. We want people never to develop T1D, and for those who already have it, we want them to be rid of it. Despite tremendous efforts and significant learnings, we know that we are many years away from realizing our vision.
The diabetes community’s passion and diversity extend to their opinions of how research dollars should be deployed until the wonderful day comes that our vision is realized. There are as many strongly-held opinions as there are people in the community, which is fantastic. People in the community also debate what constitutes a “cure”. As a T1D parent, in addition to leading JDRF, I’m extremely grateful that our community is so engaged. Together, we will drive research that will lead to the outcomes we seek.
I am writing this blog, because I know there are some people who question whether organizations such as JDRF are funding the work these people view as most impactful toward our vision. The question is a fair one, though I admit some who ask it present information in ways I find perplexing and misleading. I want to help you understand that JDRF is working incredibly hard to achieve our vision. At the same time, however, we recognize we have opportunities to make a tremendous difference in people’s lives long before that vision is realized. Hence, we feel we have an obligation, as well as an opportunity, to accelerate the discovery, development, and adoption of a variety of therapies.
JDRF continues to have a sustained and relentless commitment to our mission to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications, which meets the highest standards set by charity watchdog groups. The results of this commitment are visible in many ways, including 50 plus clinical trials currently happening in projects that have received funding from JDRF. We are determined to make a tremendous difference for everyone affected by T1D.
JDRF is the leader in funding research and has played a pivotal role in making today the most significant time in T1D research progress in decades: first and second generation pumps that prevent hypoglycemia became available to patients, human trials of more advanced artificial pancreas systems continued to show promise and move closer to the market, the first ever human trials of encapsulated beta cell replacement products were launched, dramatic breakthroughs in stem cell research occurred, human trials of glucose-responsive insulin were announced, and human testing of several compounds for beta cell protection was initiated. JDRF’s broad support directly impacted each of these advances, all focused on fulfilling our vision of a world without T1D. Importantly, each of these projects has shown important advances within the last year. Our commitment to our vision of a world without type 1 diabetes is steadfast.
JDRF is proud to say that since 1970, the organization has provided over $1.9 billion in cumulative research funding. We have always been dedicated to maintaining the highest levels of efficiency to ensure that our time, resources, and dollars can achieve the greatest possible impact on the lives of people with T1D. JDRF often makes the early investment, when the work is riskiest, to help generate data to catalyze broader investment. Then, other parties (notably government funders, corporations, foundations, and individual funders) follow, often not until proof of principle is demonstrated. In our minds, the full impact of JDRF’s work comes not only from the dollars we invest as an organization but also the dollars that are invested along with or after our investment by others. Leveraging our funds and know how is as important as anything we can do as an organization.
JDRF was created – and is still governed – by people with a direct connection to T1D. Whether it be colleagues with T1D or parents of children with T1D, we share the utmost urgency to help cure T1D. We acknowledge that different people can define a term such as “cure” differently, and we don’t mean to be presumptuous as to what constitutes a cure for people facing the challenges posed by T1D. We do, however, know that the areas that we fund have the potential to be extremely beneficial to people with T1D, and we are determined to see them reach their full potential.
In my work, I am fortunate to meet with or hear every day from people throughout the country who are affected by T1D. I am confident that they believe that a significant percentage of our funding is going toward projects that they consider to be potential cures.
If there are therapies that can lead to excellent glucose control with very little hassle on the part of the person with the disease and his or her loved ones, and if those therapies eliminate concerns of frightening low blood sugar episodes as well as the long-term concerns of complications associated with high blood sugar, then we must see to it that such therapies receive the most support possible to reach the market, be accessible to all people with T1D, and have the great impact that we envision for them.
We urge everyone who has an interest in how T1D research is funded to dig deeper into the issue – you will find JDRF’s broad support stretches across almost all the major advances toward a cure in recent decades. Personally, I urge you to stay passionate and work to help our community be a strong one for our loved ones and ourselves. Of course, people will continue to disagree over specific points, but let’s be unified in our determination to eradicate T1D and until we succeed, to make living with the disease easier and less frightening.
By Derek Rapp
JDRF President & Chief Executive Officer