Special Diabetes Program

The Special Diabetes Program (SDP) is a critical program that provides $150 million annually for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the country’s premier medical research agency. The SDP complements JDRF’s research efforts. Together, they are leading to new insights and therapies that are improving the lives of people with diabetes and accelerating progress to cure, treat, and prevent T1D.

Recent Milestones

At the close of 2020, Congress renewed funding for the SDP at the current level of $150 million annually through September 30, 2023. Achieving this remarkable, long-term renewal was one of JDRF’s top legislative priorities and was made possible by an extensive advocacy campaign involving JDRF volunteers, staff, and our champions in Congress. Below are a few additional milestones that helped to secure this extension.

Between July and October 2020, hundreds of JDRF Advocates met virtually with their Members of Congress and staff as part of JDRF’s Promise to Remember Me Campaign where they discussed the importance of renewing the SDP, and other critical issues such as insulin affordability. In total, JDRF Advocates met with 452 Congressional offices. This key campaign kept legislators informed of the need for – and importance of – a continued investment in T1D research, and the significant role they could play in improving the lives of their constituents impacted by T1D.

On September 17, 2019 JDRF, the ADA, the Endocrine Society and the National Indian Health Board led and sent letters to House and Senate Leadership, signed by 22 other organizations, urging them to ensure the SDP and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) continue without interruption. 

In the spring of 2019, our T1D champions – Congressional Diabetes Caucus Co-Chairs, Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO-1st) and Representative Tom Reed (R-NY-23rd), and Senate Diabetes Caucus Co-Chairs, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – drove bipartisan efforts that resulted in 378 U.S. Representatives and 68 U.S. Senators signing letters to Congressional leadership in support of continued funding for the SDP. 

Engagement with Congress allows the T1D community to remain actively involved in informing policy and legislation that will impact their day-to-day. Sign-up to be an advocate, and encourage friends and family to do the same to receive timely updates on how to help.

Background on the SDP

Congress created the SDP in 1997, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, after a Congressional Diabetes Research Working Group reported serious limitations in diabetes research—for T1D in particular—largely due to inadequate funding. The SDP consists of two initiatives: one to advance T1D research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and the other to fund treatment, education and prevention programs for American Indian and Alaska Native populations, who are disproportionately affected by type 2 diabetes.

Since its inception, the SDP has shown tangible results by helping scientists make significant advances in cure therapies, prevention studies and treatments—including artificial pancreas technology and groundbreaking progress in vision improvement among people with diabetic eye disease. The program is an essential component of the overall Federal investment in diabetes research and demonstrates a real return on investment annually.

Multi-year funding of the SDP is essential to continuing large-scale trials, proactively planning next steps for research programs, and allocating research dollars most effectively. Our continued engagement with Congress on SDP renewal is critical to achieve these outcomes for the T1D community.

Become a JDRF Advocate

If you haven’t done so already, please sign up to be a JDRF Advocate. Your voice will help us make a difference for those impacted by T1D, until we find cures.