Join the Blue Balloon Challenge

This summer, Medtronic® is challenging Canadians to take the Blue Balloon Challenge to raise awareness of how difficult it is to balance the ups and downs of life with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

People living with T1D have to make 300 or more decisions every day to keep their blood sugar levels in check. This includes making choices about everything they eat, drink, how much exercise to do, how long to sleep and so much more. There is never a break, and it is always there, often invisible to others

That’s what prompted Medtronic to launch this challenge, asking people to try and complete everyday tasks while holding a balloon in the air. The balloon is a metaphor that is meant to demonstrate the complexity of life with T1D.

Challenge yourself and your friends and family! Film yourself doing an everyday activity while keeping a blue balloon up in the air to highlight the constant balancing act that is living with T1D. Then post it on social media using the #blueballoonchallenge and #JDRFCanada.

Consider tagging 3 (or more!) friends to do the challenge too.

OPTIONAL: Tag @MedtronicDiabetesCanada on your post and have a chance to be featured on the Medtronic Diabetes Canada social channels as a featured post!

We look forward to seeing your photos and videos and sharing them on our JDRF social platforms.

JDRF thanks Medtronic Diabetes Canada for including us and Diabetes Canada as partners in the Blue Balloon Challenge and helping to raise funds and awareness of T1D across the country.

Check out the Blue Balloon Challenge video from Medtronic here.

Thank you, to everyone.

The 2021 Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF brought together Canadians from coast to coast to unite and raise funds to accelerate the pace of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.

We’re so excited to have had members of the community come together in our brand new, Virtual Walk Environment, mingle with friends old and new, explore our sponsor fair, and check out the Walk grounds as if you were there in person! 

Because of your incredible support, you helped raise over $2.37 million for critical funds that will support cutting edge research and meaningful community programming.  A HUGE thank you!    

By joining the Walk, you helped support breakthroughs that get us closer to a cure. You brought us closer to turning type one into type none. Together, we made a difference. 

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our sponsors, who helped make the Walk a success, allowing us to raise critical funds needed for T1D research. With their support, we were also able to offer an incredible day filled with entertainment, special guests, inspirational stories, and resources for T1D families. 

Thank you to everyone for your incredible support. We can’t wait to see you next year. 




BMO JDRF Mastercard

Pizza Hut



Family Videos

Academy of Learning

Sentinel Storage/
Access Storage

Sentinel Storage

Cosmo Club

Capital GMC Buick/Capital Ford Lincoln/Universal 

Corporate Champions

Alberta Milk

Cavendish Farms

Gateman Milloy 

Redhead Equipment Limited


Barrhaven Optometric Centre

Diabetes Care Guelph

Harvard Developments


Bedford Lions

Dura Construction

Middleton and District Lions Club

Sask Lotteries

Connect1d Canada aims to accelerate T1D research

Connect1d Canada is a digital platform that allows those living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to easily learn about T1D research happening across Canada, and contribute to research in the areas that matter most to them. The platform also allows researchers to easily engage people living with T1D, enabling rapid recruitment of diverse people from across Canada into research studies. 

The overall goal is to accelerate T1D research by boosting enrolment into T1D clinical studies of diverse group of participants. Too often, clinical studies stall because appropriate participants can’t be found—that slows down the research process and delays access to potential treatments for everyone living with T1D. And one of the most common reasons people don’t participate in a research study is because they didn’t know about it.  

The platform also addresses some of the major barriers that exist in T1D research, including awareness and understanding of available research projects and which ones need participants By providing this direct link between people living T1D and researchers focused in this area, more people living with T1D become aware of opportunities, and research teams have access to a more diverse representation of the community. 

“I am proud of Canada’s community of people with diabetes, and its community of dedicated researchers,” says Dr. Bruce Perkins, an endocrinologist and the Director of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes in Toronto. “Connect1d Canada boosts interaction between them, so that together we can reach our common goal to meaningfully transform the lives of those living with T1D.”  

Perkins, who himself lives with T1D, is co-leading the scientific arm of the program with Dr. Peter Senior, an endocrinologist and Senior Scientist with the Alberta Diabetes Institute. They are joined in this by Kate Farnsworth, who is a co-lead on the project and the parent of a child with T1D.  

Connect1d Canada was co-designed by people living with T1D and researchers, ensuring that the needs and wants of both groups were incorporated. It is an opt-in registry, which means that any Canadian adult with T1D can choose to share their information with research teams. Those participating control how their information is shared and with whom.  

Extensive consultation with the T1D community, as well as having those with the condition at the table, is something the program team sees as critical to its success. “When we originally brought our ideas to those living with T1D, they made it clear that what we were suggesting did not add sufficient value for them,” says Senior. “That opened up the dialogue that continues to this day, as we have made it a priority not only to have people with diabetes and those who care for them consulted, but to have them completely embedded into our planning and development.” 

As such, the Connect1d Canada team is developing a Community Advisory Committee that will provide guidance from the T1D community as the project grows and develops. It is clear to all involved that this project cannot be successful without all stakeholders fully invested. 

For Farnsworth, this consultation is another essential ingredient to true community engagement. “For too long research has failed to have the voice of those living with type 1 diabetes at the table, or people felt they were being represented in a tokenistic way,” she says. “This led to projects that failed because they were not appropriate for the community, often after millions of dollars had been invested. With Connect1d Canada we want to make sure people with T1D are front and centre in every aspect.” 

Currently, there are multiple studies posted on the Connect1d Canada website. Canadians with T1D can register their interest in specific projects, fill in research surveys and subscribe to receive updates about new projects that may be of interest to them.  

With funding from JDRF Canada and support from Diabetes Action Canada, in partnership with the UHN’s eHealth Innovations, this project presents a digital solution to a longstanding and complex problem.  

Register for Connect1d Canada now! 

Interested in joining the Community Advisory Committee? Apply here! 

Donor Spotlight: The Commercial Real Estate 100 Challenge

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, JDRF launched the $100M Campaign to Accelerate – a bold initiative to help finally free people from the monster that is type 1 diabetes (T1D). Though the pandemic posed challenges across industry, individuals working in commercial real estate came together to help JDRF achieve its ambitious fundraising goal.

JDRF volunteer John O’Bryan initiated the 100 Challenge asking 100 leaders from the commercial real estate sector to each contribute towards a $1 million goal. Together with campaign volunteers Yogini Narine, Vanessa Oliver, Fred Rubinoff, Peter Senst, and Chris Tambakis, along with more than 100 of their fellow colleagues across Canada, they succeeded!

Their contributions will be matched as part of JDRF’s partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The result is an incredible $2 million to fund the path to a cure for T1D.

JDRF was able to talk to John about what drove him to organize this challenge, and why helping to slay the T1D monster is so important to him and his fellow volunteers.

*Please note that some of the answers have been edited for clarity and length.

JDRF: How did you get involved with JDRF?

John O’Bryan: I have no personal connection with diabetes. With me, it was more that as an organization (CBRE) where I was the chairman and am now still the honorary chairman, they were very committed to the Ride. I got involved in the first year and really enjoyed it – enjoyed the people, enjoyed the event, I enjoyed bringing together lots of different people in the industry. And then Dave (Prowten, JDRF President & CEO) gave me a call just before Christmas and spoke to me about your plans for the 100th anniversary. Based on that conversation, I became involved with the Campaign to Accelerate.

JDRF: How did the idea for the 100 Challenge campaign come about?

John O’Bryan: I understood the significance of the 100th anniversary, and so the fact that the $100 million goal was synchronistic with the nature of the number wasn’t lost on me. And it was certainly not an unambitious number.

I came up with this concept of the 100, which was to try and get 100 real estate executives to contribute towards a $1 million goal. I then went back to Dave and laid out the whole campaign for the 100 to see if it was something he felt that JDRF could embrace.

JDRF: How did you manage to do it so quickly?

John O’Bryan: I chatted with a couple of friends of mine. Ken Silva at CBRE said “If you embark on this campaign, I’m in.” And Yogini Narine on his executive team jumped on board and said, “whatever logistical help you need, I’ll help.” They were very supportive and instrumental in helping me out.

What I wanted to do was engage people on the fundraising side of JDRF, the volunteers who are in the real estate business – Chris Tambakis, Vanessa Oliver and Fred Rubinoff, all of whom I knew.  And I tried to come up with a list of names and tried to get the number to about 50. We went from Newfoundland to BC, and I think in every province in Canada, we got representation.

The idea was not to engage companies but to engage people. These were quintessentially personal donations. But basically, an entire industry rallied around this campaign and so I thought it would inspire others.

I think due to the pandemic, people were ready to embrace things that were helpful. I think it was at a time when there was certainly a very receptive audience for this message.

The speed, to be honest with you, did surprise me. I think that was a combination of the cause, the relationship we had with those individuals, but most of all, it was the real estate community. I’ve been in this industry since 1972. It has always been and has accelerated over the years to be a wonderfully warm community. It welcomed me in as an immigrant, and it has grown to a point now where it’s a major force for good. 

JDRF: Why is this particular 100 Challenge campaign unique?

John O’Bryan: To some extent, I don’t think it is. One of things that I’ve noticed when your life has been touched by tragedy like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, you become very committed to the cause and sometimes it’s hard to understand why other people aren’t as committed as you are. And obviously it’s simple when you stand back, which is that they’ve got causes that speak to them.

The easier part of the conversations I had was that you really don’t have to explain diabetes to anybody. If it hasn’t touched your family, it has certainly touched people around us. There were times when I got off the phone and I might have had another call scheduled, but I had to cancel a couple of them because they were very emotional calls.

JDRF: What’s your hope for the Campaign to Accelerate?

John O’Bryan: The hope is that we can move the dial for people. The hope is – all research takes twists and turns and nothing is ever easy when you’re working with diseases – but you just want to make people’s lives better.

If you live in Canada and you’ve achieved any sort of success in your business, you’re such a small fraction of both the population of Canada and more importantly, of the planet. You’re in such a privileged position. It’s something that I think lots of people feel and believe and we’re all looking for ways and outlets to express that. And it’s to give back. I can’t think of a better expression than to pay it forward. Help other people. Just do your best to reach out and help.

With this campaign, you’re trying to raise $100 million, and you start with $10,000. That’s the essence of it. You must start somewhere. That to me, was the whole rationale behind the 100 Challenge campaign. If you can raise $1 million, you’ve only got 99 to go. And then when the other campaigns started to lift off, you might be able to make a significant dent in $100 million. People were very happy to contribute en masse.

JDRF thanks John O’Bryan and his co-contributors in the commercial real estate industry for their incredible contribution to the Campaign to Accelerate. The matched donation will contribute $2 million towards vital type 1 diabetes research. John hopes to spur other industries to hold similar challenges of their own.

T1D Research Round Up for Summer, 2021

Learn the latest on type 1 diabetes research updates  
Our research roundup brings you the most exciting type 1 diabetes (T1D) research stories globally, including new clinical trials, treatment advances and research projects that are making the biggest impact in curing and preventing T1D, while improving lives today.  

Here’s what you need to know in T1D research for the summer:  
American Diabetes Association Annual Meeting
Between June 25 – 29, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) held its annual meeting. Due to the pandemic, it was a virtual meeting, but still brought together researchers and clinicians from around the globe to share their research, clinical trial results and the latest innovations in diabetes technology.  

Of note was an update from ViaCyte Inc., a clinical-stage regenerative medicine company focused on developing cell therapies towards a functional cure for patients with insulin-requiring diabetes. They announced compelling preliminary clinical data from their stem cell-derived islet cell replacement therapy, PEC-Direct, for T1D. The results show that PEC-Direct lowers HbA1c, increases time in range, and results in production of C-peptide (a biomarker of insulin production by functional beta cells). These data represent the first time that of implanted pancreatic progenitor cells have been proven to produce C-peptide at clinically relevant levels in a participant in a clinical trial.  Further results of the study are expected next year.  

Read more here.

Other JDRF-funded researchers presented cutting-edge data on targeting the immune system to treat T1D, approaches to screening for T1D risk, next-generation closed-loop systems, telehealth to improve T1D outcomes, and glucose-responsive or smart insulins, which are designed to “switch on” only when needed to lower blood sugar, and “switch off” when blood sugars are in the normal range.
Update on Zucara Therapeutics’ hypoglycemia prevention drug
Hypoglycemia is a frequent, unintended consequence of insulin therapy for people with T1D and other types of insulin-dependent diabetes. Hypoglycemia is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, yet there are currently no available therapeutics to prevent the condition.

Canadian company Zucara Therapeutics is working on the answer. It is developing a once-daily therapy, called ZT-01, which restores a person with T1D’s natural glucagon response so that they can counter-regulate hypoglycemia – and thus prevents serious lows from happening. Previously, JDRF provided funding to move Zucara beyond the “valley of death”— the phase when discovery research is translated into a therapy or technology but lacks the funding to make it real. Then, in April 2020, Zucara secured the backing of a large venture capital fund to move ZT-01 into clinical trials.

Now the company is moving on to a Phase 1b study that will test the effect of ZT-01 effect on glucagon levels during hypoglycemia in people with T1D. In November 2020, Zucara also announced new funding to broaden development of ZT-01 for hypoglycemia prevention in people with insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes, indicating that even more people stand to benefit from the new drug.

Read more here.
Teplizumab was not approved by the US FDA….yet

A JDRF-funded clinical trial recently showed that an immune therapy drug called teplizumab delayed T1D onset in people at high risk by an average of 3 years. The drug, now being developed by Provention Bio, was recently submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the first disease-modifying drug ever submitted for approval to the regulator. On May 27, 2021, an advisory committee to the FDA recommended that teplizumab be approved for prevention of T1D.

However, on July 2, the FDA issued a Complete Response Letter to Provention Bio, meaning teplizumab has not been approved for use in delaying clinical T1D in at-risk individuals at this time. However, this was expected, as Provention Bio previously reported that FDA raised questions about the comparability between the commercial product and the drug used in the clinical trial. Importantly, the Complete Response Letter “did not cite any clinical deficiencies related to the efficacy and safety data packages submitted.”

JDRF is thankful for the FDA’s consideration and review of this drug and looks forward to Provention Bio addressing the outstanding issues and working with the FDA to bring this therapy to market safely.

Read Provention Bio’s press release here.

Artificial Intelligence Identifies T1D Risk Factors in Children

A collaboration between JDRF and IBM has resulted in a publication that adds new information about T1D risk in children. In the Type 1 Data Intelligence (T1DI) Study — the largest one of its kind for predictors of childhood T1 – combined data from 5 studies in 4 countries and applied artificial intelligence to reveal new insights. The results indicate that children with multiple autoantibodies (markers of T1D autoimmunity) have a 90% chance of developing T1D within 15 years, whereas children who test positive consistently for a single autoantibody have only a 30% chance.

These results not only pave the way for better understanding of risk factors for T1D, and will help to develop guidelines for routine screening, monitoring, and management of at-risk children in different health care settings.

New Brain Canada and JDRF grant announced for mental health research
On June 29, Brain Canada and JDRF officially launched the JDRF Canada – Brain Canada Addressing Mental Health in Type 1 Diabetes Team Grants, a program to support research on the development, validation, or implementation of interventions that address mental health concerns in people with type 1 diabetes.  

This new funding opportunity is open to research teams of two or more independent investigators from different institutions, or distinct departments within the same institution.  

For more information on this collaboration and how it aims to help improve mental health outcomes in people with T1D, please read here.
JDRF-funded research is leveraged to develop virtual peer support platform for youth with T1D

With the support of a JDRF grant, Dr. Tricia Tang is developing an innovative digital platform called REACHOUT that connects peer-led mental health support for adults living with T1D in the BC interior. The platform has the potential to fill a major void for many people with T1D who experience diabetes distress, particularly for those in rural and remote areas where supports are limited.

With newly awarded funding through a BC Children’s Digital Health Research Award, Dr. Tang will adapt the platform for youth with T1D, and build REACHOUT NexGEN.

The ultimate goal is to translate the REACHOUT platform to deliver peer-led mental health support to kids and adolescents with T1D, as well as their parents, to reduce distress and improve quality of life and health outcomes.

We will keep you apprised of these trial results and what it will mean for potentially bringing the product from the lab to the market, as well as provide updates on these research advances and what it could potentially mean for our Canadian type 1 diabetes community.