JDRF Research Updates

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A Letter from the Executive Director:

So many exciting things are happening for JDRF it’s hard to narrow it down to the highlights!  There are two things I want to share though.  First is a great illustration that highlights how every dollar you give to JDRF is leveraged so that $1 turns into $2.50 for T1D research!


JDRF is committed to a cure for T1D and to keeping everyone living with T1D healthy while we are working on the cure.  JDRF understands that we cannot do this alone and that building strategic partnerships is essential for success.  We are driving the change.  T1D research is not a priority for any pharma company. JDRF plays a strategic role in incentivizing these companies to invest in this research so that today, three major pharmaceutical companies are investing significant money into cell therapy and immunotherapy research.

Secondly, I want to share with you an excerpt from Aaron Kowalski’s testimony to Congress last month.  Aaron was speaking to Congress regarding the critical need for continued funding of the Special Diabetes Program.  Here is an insert from his remarks:

Approximately 30 million Americans have T1D or T2D, and that number is expected to rise in years to come. According to a study in Diabetes Care, diabetes cost the US economy $327 billion in 2017 alone. Since there are so many complications that come with diabetes, about a third of the Medicare budget is spent on people with diabetes.

To address the burden of diabetes, the Special Diabetes Program was created as part of a bipartisan budget deal, and has been supported by both chambers of Congress and both parties ever since. And thanks to the funding successive Congresses have provided, we have seen major progress in T1D research that has directly led to improvements in the health and quality of life of people with diabetes. Allow me to share some of the highlights.

Kidney disease is a potentially life-threatening complication of T1D, and end-stage renal disease creates a tremendous economic burden, costing Medicare $34 billion in 2015. If new therapies could lower end-stage renal disease rates by 50 percent, Medicare would save more than $51.6 billion in 10 years. A promising SDP-funded trial is testing whether allopurinol, a generic medication used to treat gout, may halt or slow the progression of early kidney disease in people with T1D. In this case, SDP is filling a critical gap as commercial pharmaceutical companies have no incentive to invest in testing new uses for this generic drug.

Diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness, is one of the most devastating complications of diabetes. As a result of SDP research, the FDA has approved multiple drugs that preserve and even improve vision in people who have diabetic eye disease. These advances make the difference between being able to see well enough to drive or hold a job – or not. The SDP also filled a critical research gap by funding a comparison of three drugs for the treatment of diabetic eye disease. The results, released in 2015, help patients, clinicians, insurers and policymakers make better informed decisions about targeted treatment. This comparison likely would not have happened in the private sector. With continued funding researchers could conduct trials using a generic drug to see if it also prevents or halts the progression of retinopathy.

We know that one of the best ways to prevent these complications from diabetes is to make it easier to better manage diabetes. Over the years, the SDP has funded some of the most consequential leaps forward in diabetes management, giving people with T1D access to multiple new tools to enable better glucose control. These multiple options, which are essential as what may work for one person may not be the best for another, include the first FDA-approved CGM not needing finger-stick calibration, the first FDA-approved fully implantable CGM, and the first FDA-approved iCGM system that can be used as part of a system with other compatible medical devices and electronic interfaces. And perhaps the largest leap forward – the first FDA-approved artificial pancreas (AP) system – also came on the market several years earlier than expected thanks to innovative research supported by the SDP. This not only will transform lives: according to one study, Medicare could save $1 billion over 25 years with the use of AP systems in adults.

And this is just the start.

The SDP is supporting research that will lead to other next-generation systems being available in the future. This includes advanced clinical trials to test AP technology with greater automation, larger groups, wider age ranges, longer time periods and with understudied populations.

To make progress towards curing T1D, we need to understand why the immune system goes awry, and how we can eliminate these immune attacks. This has implications across numerous diseases, from multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis to cancer. We also need to understand how to protect and regenerate insulin-producing beta cells that have been damaged.

The SDP is funding innovative, multi-disciplinary scientific consortia and path-breaking research utilizing big data analytics and other new research methods.

For instance, The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young – or TEDDY program – has screened more than 425,000 children and enrolled 8,600 children determined to be at-risk of developing T1D to understand what environmental factor or factors trigger T1D onset. The study is more than halfway to completion and information on diet, infections, and other exposures is being analyzed from children who are progressing or now have full T1D onset. By identifying triggers, strategies could be developed to prevent onset altogether. The data collected from this study could also benefit other autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease.

Another example is TrialNet – the International Consortium for Clinical Trials to Delay or Prevent T1D Progression – in which SDP-funded researchers have screened more than 200,000 relatives of people with T1D and continue to screen more than 15,000 people annually to identify the early stages of T1D before any symptoms appear. This, in turn, is allowing us to test novel approaches to prevent or slow the onset of T1D in those most at-risk to develop it.

Finally, the Human Islet Research Network is working to help us better understand how beta cells, the cells in the body that produce insulin, are lost in T1D and find strategies to protect or replace them in people, which is an important step toward curing the disease.



There are many more exciting breakthroughs in research and in treatment that I am happy to share with you.  Please email me at ksanders@jdrf.org or call 502.653.6574


All the best,

Kathey Golightly Sanders