Scientists have announced a £4.4 million investment in type 1 diabetes research, which could lead to the development of a cure.
It is hoped that the funding, which has been provided by Diabetes UK (with support from Tesco) and the JDRF, could lead to working vaccines within 10 years.
How will the funding be used?
The £4.4 million investment will go to a large network of studies, based in King’s College London, Cardiff University, and Imperial College London. The studies cover a wide variety of trials and activities.
King’s College London
Professor Mark Peakman will conduct the first trials of a prototype vaccine in children and teenagers at high risk of type 1 diabetes.
“In my laboratory we spent many years gaining a better understanding of what goes wrong with the balance of the immune system in patients developing type 1 diabetes,” he said.
“We eventually hit upon the idea that we could try to revert the damaging response by inducing a protective one; so it’s a vaccine with a difference.”
Also at King’s College, Dr. Tim Tree will establish a nationwide network of labs, studying the impact of immuno-therapy trials. His research could make it possible to predict who will benefit from a particular treatment, which would make it possible to carefully target treatments and maximise their efficiency.
Cardiff University
At Cardiff University, Professor Colin Dayan’s work will involve the development of a nationwide network of Type 1 diabetes trials throughout British hospitals, including a training network for doctors and researchers to conduct them.
Cardiff University will also host a type 1 diabetes vaccine trial.
Professor Dayan said: “We believe that this immune-based therapy can slow or stop the body from damaging its own insulin-making cells in the pancreas.
“Research to date shows that the treatment is safe, but we are in the early days and need to learn more about how it works in people in newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes.
“If effective, we can develop further treatments for individuals who are at risk of developing this type of diabetes later in life.”
Details of the trial
The project is called the “Phase 1b Study of Proinsulin (PI) Peptide Immunotherapy in New-Onset Type 1 Diabetes (MonoPepT1De-1b).”
According to the JDRF, it examines “whether a new type of treatment that uses a fragment of a protein from the insulin making cells (proinsulin) can be used to stop the autoimmune process that destroys these cells in type 1 diabetes.”
The search for a cure
Previous type 1 diabetes research has identified important parts of the immune system that could targeted by type 1 immuno-therapy. As researchers have gained a greater understanding of the initial causes of type 1, the possibility of a therapeutic solution to type 1 diabetes has increased.
“This funding has already led to a bold new collaboration between UK diabetes scientists and will provide an immense boost for this field as we work towards new clinical trials and a step change in our ability to halt the loss of insulin in type 1 diabetes,” said Professor Dayan.
“With a year or two we will see many more children and adults taking part in this research […] within ten years we hope to see the first vaccine therapies delivered to patients in the clinic.”
Karen Addingto, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: “A child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five faces up to 19,000 injections and 50,000 finger pricks by the time they are 18.
“Our major search for a vaccine takes place within a global push, by some of the world’s very best scientists, to consign this life-threatening condition to history. The day will come when Type 1 diabetes can be both prevented and cured.”

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