JDRF Leads Research to Develop a Vaccine for Viral Infections That Could Prevent Type 1 Diabetes

NEW YORK, January 31, 2019 – A team of researchers funded in part by JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research, recently published an article in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, on the scientific rationale for pursuing a vaccine that could prevent the development of T1D in some people susceptible to the disease.

The review, led by Jessica Dunne, Ph.D., director of the prevention research program at JDRF, aligns with JDRF’s prevention strategy to expand T1D screening, delay the onset of T1D, and ultimately, develop a vaccine so no one needs to worry about T1D again.

Along with genetic factors, scientists hypothesize that some viral infections may be partly responsible for creating the conditions and environment in the pancreas that eventually leads to T1D. The paper in Diabetologia focuses on a group of viruses called enteroviruses, as a protein linked with some of these viruses has been found in most pancreatic samples studied in association with T1D. (Tissue samples have been made available through the JDRF-funded Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes, the world’s largest biobank of pancreatic tissue and samples of the human pancreas, as well as Exeter Biobank and the DiViD study).

“The only way to prove the involvement of these viruses definitively is to perform clinical enteroviral vaccine or anti-viral trials,” said Sarah Richardson, Ph.D., a JDRF career development fellow, investigator at the University of Exeter Medical School, and study author. “We need to study individuals at-risk of developing type 1 diabetes and show that vaccines can prevent or slow progression of the disease.”

Many individuals with T1D have shown evidence of an enterovirus infection, and a vaccine could prevent the development of T1D in some people, especially those at risk of chronic infections that potentially put the immune system in a constant state of reaction and cause inflammation and stress for insulin-producing beta cells.

“JDRF is pursuing an ambitious research portfolio aimed at treating, preventing, and curing type 1 diabetes,” said Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., Chief Mission Officer of JDRF. “Type 1 diabetes is being diagnosed at increasing rates. As we work toward a cure, we are committed to preventing or delaying the disease through the development of viral vaccines and other therapeutics, including identifying new biomarkers and interventions.”

In addition to supporting clinical research, JDRF is making commercial investments in companies currently working on breakthroughs, including an enterovirus vaccine. For example, the JDRF T1D Fund invested in Provention Bio, Inc. (Nasdaq:PRVB), a company working to develop a vaccine to prevent T1D by targeting the coxsackievirus B infection.

To learn more about JDRF’s work to prevent T1D, visit www.jdrf.org/research.


About T1D

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.


JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Our mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested more than $2.2 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers throughout the United States and our six international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.org or follow us on Twitter: @JDRF.