JDRF Canada partners with CIHR in new funding opportunity to develop solutions aimed at prevention, treatment, and delivery of care for diabetes

December 18, 2019

Almost 100 years ago, Canadian researchers successfully isolated insulin to treat type 1 diabetes (T1D) in what is considered one of the most dramatic and important breakthroughs in medicine. This Nobel prize-winning discovery revolutionized treatment options for people with T1D, allowing them to live longer and healthier lives. Since then, millions of lives have been saved, yet the prevalence of T1D continues to increase – and as of today, there is no cure for the disease.

In a new funding opportunity led by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), JDRF will partner with the federal agency to fund several new team grants that aim to uncover new mechanisms that control the onset and progression of diabetes and its related complications. The new team grants will also hope to develop new translational solutions aimed at prevention, treatment and delivery of care for diabetes. This funding opportunity is part of JDRF and CIHR’s ongoing Partnership to Defeat Diabetes first announced in 2017.

“As we approach the insulin centenary, JDRF is aiming to fund new research that takes us beyond insulin therapy as we know it, and into an era where we have multiple options for improved management of T1D, and ultimately find cures for the disease,” says Dr. Sarah Linklater, Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF Canada. “This opportunity to fund multidisciplinary research in partnership with CIHR is one of several ways we are striving towards that aim.”

Other organizations partnering in this funding opportunity include Diabetes Canada, Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé (FRQS), Kidney Foundation of Canada (KFOC) and Mitacs. For more information, please click here.

The impact of your voice this National Diabetes Awareness Month

December 5, 2019

National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM) has officially come to an end, and we cannot thank you enough for your overwhelming support and participation.

Here are some of the great initiatives you took part on that helped make this NDAM so special:

You shared your Dear Type 1™ stories, and it made a strong impact

This November we asked you, the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community, to share your stories, help raise money and support leading edge T1D research. You responded to our ask—submitting over 155 #DearType1 letters—bravely shedding light on your struggles, successes and experiences living with type 1, or knowing someone who does. The struggles of this 24/h disease are often forgotten. By sharing your stories, you helped educate readers, and advocate for change. Thank you so much for opening up to the community through #DearType1.

With each submission, we were lucky to receive the support of Ascencia, who donated $5 for every letter sent in. We greatly appreciate their help.

Our #deartype1 initiative was such a success that Tandem Diabetes Care has stepped forward with a challenge to continue this momentum! For every story shared during the month of December, Tandem will give $5 to JDRF Canada, up to $7500. Share your story and help change the way people talk about living with T1D.

You toured Dr. Kieffer’s lab with us and learned about stem cell therapies

Throughout NDAM, we also wanted to share exciting research developments with you. That’s why we were so excited to bring you to Dr. Kieffer’s lab live to update you on stem-cell therapies, and allow you to ask questions about this exciting field of T1D research. Your engagement on our Facebook live was so encouraging, and re-affirmed the importance of these partnerships for JDRF. Thank you for tuning in and learning with us.

You advocated with us at Queen’s Park

We also had the opportunity to take you with us to Queen’s Park in Toronto, ON, where we sat down with advocates in the industry partnering with MPPs to discuss the need for affordable, and accessible devices like CGMs and FGMs in the province. A huge thanks to the JDRF delegates who took part in these efforts advocating for access to the best health technology for every Canadian living with T1D.

You’re the reason why we can move forward

Because of your overwhelming support and donations throughout NDAM, the Miller family was so inspired by the T1D community, they stepped up to match all donations until the end of November, up to $40,000. We thank the Millers so much for their gratitude and support in moving us closer to our goal.

Because of you, this NDAM we were able to surpass our fundraising goal. Thank you so much for your generous support.

A response like this is the driving force behind supporting ground-breaking T1D research. From artificial pancreases to new advancements in stem cell replacement therapy, we continue to grow closer to better treatment therapies and cures for this disease.

While this progress is tremendous, we continue to encourage this momentum in T1D research breakthroughs. We can only ensure that the most promising research continues to take place with your help.

We promise to continually fight for you today, and every day—advocating for progress and partnering with lead researchers and health care providers so you can live a longer, healthier life until one day we find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Thank you to everyone for making this NDAM so special.

Please continue to share your #Deartype1 stories and raise awareness about T1D, because every T1D experience matters.

Teen athlete with type 1 diabetes pursues dreams while raising awareness

December 4, 2019

Beth Miller is a driven athlete with an indomitable spirit and a passion for life. At 16 years old, the Calgary resident has competed nationally in skiing and is currently a competitive rower who has represented her province twice at the National Rowing Championships – all while living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that has challenged her daily since the young age of six.       

“It was a shock,” says Beth, recalling her diagnosis. “I was dancing back then, too, and managing my condition with sports was incredibly difficult. Yet we worked on it as a family; my parents and two older brothers were very supportive, and after much practice and trial and error, the routine eventually turned habit.”

The Millers joined JDRF to be part of a community with other families living with T1D and began fundraising for the charity through its signature events like the annual Walk. A guest speaker at JDRF’s local gala when she was in just first grade, Beth succeeded in amassing a record number of donations.

“JDRF gave me a platform to connect with others and an active voice to move towards change and have an impact,” she says.

“Being involved (with JDRF) was important because we were helping to raise money and contribute to its mission and research towards a cure,” adds her mother, Heather, who served on the gala and Walk committees over the years.

Last year, Beth took part in JDRF’s  Kids for a Cure Lobby Day where she travelled to Ottawa to share her experiences and raise awareness about the challenges of living with a 24/7 condition.

“It was so cool,” she relates enthusiastically. “It opened my eyes to the world of lobbying and advocacy.”

Today, Beth’s father, Ron, is vice-chair on JDRF’s National Board of Directors. As a long-time JDRF supporter, the family has decided to generously match all donations to the organization (up to $100,000) between now and December 31st.

“We wanted to give back,” says Heather, “and remind everyone that the holiday season can be a time of giving gifts towards change. Our hope is to motivate people to go one step further.”

As Beth prepares to enter university, she is hopeful for a day with more doors of opportunity and less limitations.

“Not many know the effort that goes into managing T1D each day and all the trials behind the scenes,” says Heather. “It is so time-consuming on top of school, sports and a job. Yet Beth is an accomplished athlete with big dreams and talents that run deep – someone who shows us that you can still do everything with T1D if you put in the hard work.”

While a world without T1D would be the ultimate dream come true, Beth remains inspired by recent advancements in research and their potential to change lives in the future.

“The movement towards a closed-loop system technology (i.e., artificial pancreas) would allow better self-management and give me more confidence as a competitive athlete,” she explains, “while research into stem cells feels like progress is being made and that we are closer to a cure.”

Using scaffolding technology to improve islet graft outcomes in patients with type 1 diabetes

December 2, 2019

JDRF has supported research in beta cell replacement for more than a decade, aiming to make a stem cell-based treatment for type 1 diabetes (T1D) a reality. The goal is to enable a large number of people with T1D to benefit from a procedure similar to islet transplantation, whereby transfer of donor-derived islets enables long-term insulin independence in some patients. Using a renewable stem cell source would overcome the reliance on donor islets for the procedure, opening up the possibility of treating far more patients than is currently feasible.

Another challenge in developing this approach as a long-lasting treatment for T1D is ensuring optimum survival and function of the transplanted cells. In recent years, researchers have worked diligently to make islet transplants more successful through the use of ‘scaffolding’ technology. A scaffold is an artificial structure capable of supporting three-dimensional tissue formation.

Dr. Purushothaman Kuppan, a JDRF-funded investigator at the University of Alberta, is developing a new, modifiable scaffold device designed to increase islet graft survival and function among people with T1D, which would improve transplantation outcomes and also reduce or eliminate the need for systemic immunosuppressive drugs.

On the basis of work carried out by his mentor, Dr. Gregory Korbutt, Dr. Kuppan and his colleagues are using an innovative approach to construct a retrievable, bioactive, 3D porous scaffold that will permit the creation of well-vascularized and oxygenated transplant sites outside of the liver – the common transplant site for islets – while simultaneously incorporating proteins to help keep the cells healthy. The device will be further adapted to locally secrete immunosuppressive agents to protect transplanted cells from rejection.

As part of this project, Dr. Kuppan will determine whether pre-implantation of the scaffold creates ideal conditions to support islet transplantation, compared with implantation of islets and the scaffold simultaneously. Through this JDRF-funded work, he is hopeful that this promising technology will be used as a key component of beta cell replacement therapy for T1D in the future.