Published on 20 April 2023

Three researchers that have worked with DRWF supported by grant towards diabetes research.

A £5 million funding award has been given to three researchers that have worked with DRWF.

The funding marks the start of the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge programme – set to provide £50 million towards diabetes research over the coming years.

The funding of scientists based around the UK will each solve different problems with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for type 1 diabetes.

The trio of researchers awarded part of the funding are Dr James Cantley, Dr Victoria Salem and Professor Sarah Richardson.

The project is funded by a £5 million donation from the Steve Morgan Foundation as part of the Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices programme aimed at improving the lives of young people aged between 11-25 with type 1 diabetes.

Around a fifth of the 300,000 people in the UK with type 1 diabetes are aged 25 and under, with many feeling the condition is holding them back and adding to their isolation.

Research samples and a pipette.

Dr James Cantley, at the University of Dundee, will work on developing new drugs to help people living with type 1 diabetes grow back their own beta cells inside their pancreas.

The aim of this approach will be to avoid problems with the immune system rejecting transplanted “foreign” donor or lab-made beta cells and allow the pancreas to produce its own insulin again. 

Dr Cantley said: “Regenerating beta cells in the pancreas has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of type 1 diabetes, by replacing cells destroyed by the immune attack, and ultimately leading to stable blood sugar levels and a life free from insulin injections." 

Professor Sarah Richardson, of the University of Exeter, will investigate how and why a person’s immune system destroys their own beta cells and how this process may differ between people with type 1 diabetes.

Professor Richardson will also study how beta cells can fight back against the immune attack.

With this knowledge, researchers could develop an armoury of new treatments that target different lines of the immune system's attack. 

Professor Richardson said: "Ultimately, this will help us tailor existing and emerging therapies to the individual, maximising the benefits for people with type 1 diabetes." 

A 3D bioprinter in action.

Dr Victoria Salem, of Imperial College London, will work with a state-of-the-art 3D bioprinter to “print” a device that can be implanted into people with type 1 diabetes to deliver a new supply of beta cells. 

The device will act as a barrier and protect the beta cells sitting inside, by blocking attacking immune cells, while still letting in vital nutrients they need to survive. 

Dr Salem said: “The dream for a cell-based cure for type 1 diabetes is now tantalisingly close - I'm so excited and honoured to be a part of this journey."

Dr James Cantley was awarded a DRWF Pump Priming grant in 2019 to investigate the role of Viperin in beta cells as a mechanistic link between enteroviral infection and the development of type 1 diabetes, and is a new member of the Diabetes Wellness Sverige (DWS) Research Advisory Board

Dr Sarah Richardson was awarded a DRWF Non-Clinical Fellowship award in 2010 for her study on Enteroviral infection as a causative factor in human type 1 diabetes.

Dr Vicky Salem joined the DRWF Research Advisory Board in 2021.

Dr Victoria Salem in her research lab.

I was truly honoured to be invited to join the DRWF advisory board. The board represents the best diabetes researchers from across the UK. They all share the passion and values that make DRWF a really wonderful organisation - one which has patients with diabetes at its heart and is suffused with a culture of kindness and research excellence.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes
Find out more about DRWF-funded research here

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