Closing in on a Therapeutic Target

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JDRF’s ultimate goal is curing type 1 diabetes (T1D). We believe there are two parts to this goal: stop the immune system from attacking beta cells, and bring back the beta cells that have already been lost. Cellular immunologist and JDRF investigator Dr. Andrew Sutherland works primarily on the first objective. “It’s exciting to see beta cell therapies developing, but the core of the disease is the immune component and we need to solve that too in order to cure T1D. I’m working to find the immune pathways that we need to target in order to deliver a cure.”

It’s a difficult task: in fact, no cures yet exist for any autoimmune diseases. But Dr. Sutherland is examining a part of the immune system called type 17 immunity, which has been implicated in multiple autoimmune diseases, including T1D. “The type 17 immune response is complicated and hasn’t been studied enough to show clearly what parts of the pathway might be therapeutic targets,” he explains. “Ideally we’ll find the immune pathways that are critical and develop some new therapies.”

Dr. Sutherland has a Career Development Award from JDRF, which provides five years of funding for his research. “For my career, this is massive. It allows me to focus primarily on the important questions, without the pressure to find funding every two years. This award has come along at the perfect time in my career. It’s exactly what I needed to expand both my expertise and my projects to get to a cure. I could not be more positive.”

We couldn’t be either! That’s why JDRF encourages early-career scientists like Dr. Sutherland to concentrate on T1D research. Learn more about JDRF’s early-career research funding and meet more of the scientists we support.

By Alexandra Mulvey