Developing the Talent to Innovate

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Fresh perspectives invigorate insulin research

At JDRF we know it will take time, talent and passion to create a world without type 1 diabetes (T1D). So, we are committed to harnessing the intellect of emerging scientists and attracting the attention of more established researchers to the T1D space. Many of our research partners share this commitment, and combining our efforts can create bigger opportunities for progress. JDRF has partnered with pharmaceutical leader Sanofi on a new initiative that supports several investigators in the development of glucose-responsive insulins (GRIs), innovative insulins whose activity is tied to blood-glucose levels. Together, JDRF and Sanofi have committed almost $5 million in milestone-based funding over three years to the four researchers.

  • Alborz Mahdavi, Ph.D. (Protomer Technologies). As a graduate student, Dr. Mahdavi was one of three winners of the 2013 JDRF GRI Grand Challenge Prize, designed to stimulate research on GRIs.
  • Danny Chou, Ph.D. (University of Utah). Dr. Chou previously received a postdoctoral fellowship from JDRF to study a GRI under the guidance of JDRF-funded researchers Robert Langer, Sc.D., and Daniel Anderson, Ph.D.
  • Zhen Gu, Ph.D. (North Carolina State University). Dr. Gu was named one of the MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2015 after his insulin-delivering patch showed success in regulating blood-glucose levels in mice.
  • Christoph Hagemeyer, Ph.D. (Monash University). Dr. Hagemeyer, a chemist by training, applies nanotechnology to improve drug delivery in cardiovascular and inflammatory disease.

The scientists are each studying a unique approach to improving insulin therapy. Current forms of insulin therapy cannot match the close synchronization between insulin and glucose levels that occurs in people without T1D. This limitation places those who live with T1D at constant risk of having blood-sugar levels outside the recommended range, despite careful blood-sugar monitoring and adjustment of insulin dosages. Through our Glucose Control Program, JDRF works to resolve this problem by investigating alternative insulin delivery strategies that more closely resemble insulin release in people without diabetes. One focus of this research is the development of GRIs that activate when blood-glucose levels rise and deactivate when blood-glucose levels fall. GRI therapy would effectively coordinate insulin delivery with blood-sugar levels, preventing dangerous highs and lows.

“GRIs could address many shortcomings of current insulin therapy by reliably maintaining blood-sugar levels within a safe range and reducing the burden of managing T1D,” says JDRF Associate Vice President of Translational Development Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D.

JDRF’s partnership with Sanofi will speed the development of GRIs for the T1D community by uniting JDRF’s scientific leadership with Sanofi’s expertise in bringing novel insulins to market. Partnering with industry is part of our strategic plan to ensure that promising research reaches the people who need it.

Why It Matters

Through our partnership with Sanofi, JDRF is cultivating both innovative GRI therapies and promising research careers, creating a synergy that has the potential to revolutionize T1D care.

Learn More

Learn more about JDRF’s Glucose Control Program.

By Monica Harrington