On April 20, 2022, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and JDRF announced new funding for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research in the areas of precision medicine and psychosocial health. This new tranche of funding stems from the 2021 Federal Budget announcement on strategic investments in diabetes research.
The JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes is a landmark collaboration announced in 2017 between the Government of Canada, through CIHR, who invested $15M and JDRF Canada who matched that investment with an additional $15M to support transformative T1D research.
CIHR-JDRF Team Grants: Precision Medicine in Type 1 Diabetes
Precision medicine is an important approach to treating disease that is based on an individual’s personal health factors. Often described as ‘the right treatment for the right patient at the right time’, precision medicine focuses on integrating data about genetic, molecular, and environmental factors to improve disease diagnosis, care, treatment or prevention.
A greater understanding of how individual characteristics ‒ including genetics, biomarkers and immune and beta cell dysfunction ‒ contribute to T1D risk and progression may lead to more precise therapeutic targets, better characterization of disease risk and how it may progress in an individual, improved opportunities for safe and effective intervention and, ultimately prevention of T1D.
Complementing previous CIHR and JDRF investments in new T1D research as part of 100 Years of Insulin: Accelerating Canadian Discoveries to Defeat Diabetes, the CIHR-JDRF Team Grants: Precision Medicine in Type 1 Diabetes will support multi-disciplinary research to accelerate precision medicine approaches for prediction, prevention, and treatment of T1D.
CIHR-JDRF Operating Grants in Diabetes, Psychosocial Health, Prevention and Self-Management
Research has shown an increasingly clear relationship between diabetes and a variety of psychosocial factors. Psychosocial factors are the constellation of environmental, social, behavioural, and emotional factors that can influence both disease management and emotional and psychological well-being. But standard care for diabetes doesn’t always address psychosocial health concerns despite evidence that poor psychosocial health can result in poorer outcomes for disease management.
This new funding opportunity will help to support JDRF’s Mental Health Strategy, which aims to close gaps in mental health support to improve both the quality of life and health outcomes for Canadians with T1D.
Specific to T1D, this funding opportunity will support research that is focused on interventions and models of care that address psychosocial issues and mental health disorders in people with T1D to improve mental health and associated quality of life and/or clinical outcomes.
Since its inception in 2017, the CIHR-JDRF Partnership to Defeat Diabetes has funded 11 innovative clinical trials and translational research projects to accelerate the development of new treatment approaches for people with T1D, in addition to cures for the disease. Most recently, JDRF announced a new investment of $7 million to support four Canadian research teams as part of the Partnership. Learn more about the funded research projects from the Partnership.
The CIHR-JDRF Partnership to Defeat Diabetes is one of the six pillars of JDRF’s $100 Million Campaign to Accelerate. These two opportunities will unlock $18M of the next $30M of funding through the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes. JDRF is committed to raising the funds required to support the research that will be funded through these two opportunities.
JDRF is very thankful to our donors who have made these funding opportunities in new areas of focus possible. Further updates on the projects and the researchers who secure the grants will be provided as they become available.
National Volunteer Week takes place from April 24-30, 2022, as organizations across the country celebrate those who generously donate their time and talents to their community.
The National Volunteer Week theme for 2022 is Volunteering Is Empathy in Action, affirming the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy. The theme also emphasizes that Volunteers Bring Heart to Canada’s Communities and that this profoundly human connection is at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities.
JDRF’s volunteers are unquestionably the heart and soul of what we do. Some of our dedicated volunteers share why they devote their time to JDRF and what being a volunteer means to them.
Why I volunteer
Ariane Archambault, Montreal QC Diagnosed age11
I started volunteering in different organizations 4-5 years ago, because I felt that I needed to get involved, to be around people with different realities than mine, to understand different points of view and especially to try to be useful somewhere in society.
For a long time, I wanted to get involved with other young people with type 1 diabetes, but I didn’t feel mentally strong enough to reassure, advise and equip people who face the same difficulties as I do every day. I needed detachment, perspective, experience and most of all to work on accepting the disease first before trying to inspire others to do the same.
After 14 years of living with type 1 diabetes, experiencing the ups and downs, I decided to seek help from JDRF’s Peer Support Program, as I was going through a little discouragement. It felt so good to talk to someone who was going through the same issues as I was, that I immediately wanted to get involved!
Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to help a few newly diagnosed people get through the emotional roller coaster that comes with a diagnosis. I realize that I wish someone had been there to answer all my questions and concerns when I was diagnosed at age 11. It’s not easy to see your daily life take a 180 degree turn and to feel alone in this new reality, so it’s great if I could contribute, in a small way, to breaking the isolation. We should all listen to each other more and be really interested in what others may be going through, even if it is miles away from our reality.
Being asked how you’re doing, for real, and being listened to, changes everything.
I am also involved in JDRF Marketing in Quebec, and I am also part of the JDRF Mental Health Advisory Board, which aims to develop a mental health strategy to better support people with type 1 diabetes.
I try to raise awareness as much as possible with those around me, because over the years I have come to realize that type 1 diabetes is not well known, and therefore not well understood, which contributes to the isolation of people with the disease. Every time I can help someone who is going through the same thing as I am, I always feel a little more confident.
Motria Iwan, Victoria BC Diagnosed age 14
Motria is a JDRF volunteer in Victoria, BC who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old. She has participated in multiple JDRF fundraising events since being diagnosed and she currently volunteers as a graphic designer at JDRF.
In November 2021, with the help of the JDRF team, Motria organized her own National Diabetes Awareness Month fundraising initiative which raised over $10,000 for JDRF. Motria also initiated Langford City Hall in BC to proclaim November as National Diabetes Awareness Month and she organized the Royal BC Museum, Victoria City Hall, and the BC Parliament Building to light up blue on November 14th in honour of World Diabetes Day and 100 years since the discovery of insulin.
Motria loves contributing her abilities as a user experience and interface designer to benefit the diabetic community and she aims to inspire people with type 1 diabetes.
Raj Huitin, Thornhill, ON Diagnosed age 2
My name is Raj and I have type 1 diabetes. I’ve been living with this condition for almost 14 years now, and it has become a part of my daily routine. I was diagnosed as a 2 year old toddler, which was extremely overwhelming for my parents. While the hospital provided great support, my parents leaned on the JDRF right away for mentorship from other parents, attending informational sessions, and participating in family events such as the ride and the walk for the cure.
Seeing this journey made my decide that I would like to contribute as well. Volunteering helps me give back to the community that has helped me and so many others. The most fulfilling part of volunteering is that I know I am helping others with their conditions learn just like I did. Diabetes isn’t a weakness; I would actually say it has certain benefits as well. It has helped me build my resilience with school and sports. Without fail the JDRF has helped numerous kids like me and my family countless times and I love volunteering for them.
Ruby Pilatzke, Petawawa, ON Diagnosed age 9
School was out for the summer June of 2013. I was 9 and looking forward to spending time with friends, taking in all the fun and wonderment the break typically had to offer. That summer was anything but typical. It started with me wetting the bed again. I had long outgrown that. At this time too, I was so thirsty. One weekend I drank water bottle after water bottle only to have my thirst never quenched.
The thing that couldn’t be ignored though was my sudden weight loss. It happened without warning, really overnight. It was drastic to say the least. So pronounced, my looks changed making me barely recognizable to those who knew me well. My mom had helped me have a bath just prior and she couldn’t believe how thin I was. Mom is a nurse and knew what diabetes was, I know. She even said to me one night “mommy doesn’t know Ruby. Maybe you have diabetes.”
Almost a week later though the weight loss couldn’t be ignored. That was the tipping point which triggered the trip to the emergency department. Along with my vital signs, my blood sugar was assessed. The reading was high, confirming my mom’s suspicions. July 29, 2013 brought the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and a world none of us was prepared for.
I learned of JDRF early on in my diagnosis, when it was suggested I sign up for their Bag of Hope. A welcome package so to speak for those with Type 1 diabetes. It has useful resources for the person with diabetes and their caregivers. I got it and among other things it had resources to help explain this complex disease, information about an annual walk and a stuffed animal with patches to help with injections, ironically it’s name was Ruby.
My mom accessed resources from the organization to help prepare those at my school for my return in September. I was interested in the Walk and invited some friends and family to join me. We went and I wasn’t prepared for the number of people there. I was overwhelmed at the support I saw and felt. So many people all there with one common interest. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.
Since then I have been an annual JDRF walk participant and have become more involved. I attended the Dia-beat-it Gala twice and enjoyed having an avenue there to tell my story. Seeing donors contribute to the fight against Type 1 diabetes was empowering.
From there, I was asked to be a youth ambassador. Valuing JDRF’s mission, “Improving lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat type one diabetes and it’s complications”, this designation was such an honour.
I have enjoyed composing social media videos and articles to raise awareness of this disease. Even with the pandemic when the Walk plans had to change, I changed with them. I did a virtual fundraiser talking my brothers into shaving their heads which helped raise $7000.
Once again, the following year, the walk was forced to pivot from what it traditionally had been. With insulin’s discovery 100 years prior it got me thinking. The idea to walk 100 km was born and came to fruition. I trekked for 22 hours straight, gaining lots of attention by media coverage and kind folks driving by honking in their cars.
I was able to use my voice to bring exposure to the realities and struggles that comprise Type 1 diabetes. I also blew my $10,000 fundraising goal out of the water. At the finish line it was announced that I raised a total of just over $28,000. I know those in my community know more about the disease because of me and that is a good feeling. Knowledge is power. That can only make things better for myself and others that live with this disease and until there is a cure that’s what I can ask for.
Celebrating our JDRF National Youth Champions (NYCs)
A very special group of JDRF volunteers consists of amazing teenagers who champion leadership in their communities. Residing across Canada, our 11 JDRF NYCs were selected to spread awareness, advocate on behalf of all Canadians, and empower young people who have been newly diagnosed with T1D.
These deeply motivated volunteers created a T1D myth busting campaign, participated in JDRF events, and launched their own project titled The 100 Project which raised $9,497.00 in just a few short months. These volunteers have been featured on local radio stations, in schools and in numerous local newspapers. They are strong advocates for change, and for a cure. A big thank you to the 2021 NYC volunteers who have created pathways for young people living with T1D across Canada.
“Volunteering as an NYC allowed me the opportunity to meet people with the same goals. I enjoyed being part of the group to fundraise and share my common story with others!” – Miranda DeFazio, NYC
“Being an NYC has been an amazing opportunity. Hearing all the ideas from other type ones on how we can raise awareness and raise money for JDRF has been something I have always wanted to do! I love being able to use my voice for other people in the same situations as me!” – Anika Dyck, NYC
“For me, being a young national champion means getting involved on a larger scale for the cause. It is to take a bigger step, not only by taming my disease, but also by fighting to make known the reality of life with T1D with young people from all across Canada.” – Juliette Benoît, NYC
“Being able to volunteer with JDRF in this role has been nothing but rewarding and empowering! I have so enjoyed having the opportunity to make a difference for type one diabetics in Canada through the fundraising and advocacy work I have gotten to do as a JDRF National Youth Champion. JDRF is helping to change the world, and I am incredibly thankful to have gotten a chance to be a part of that.” – Anne Pettigrew NYC
“Being an NYC means that I can educate and learn from others about T1D! It allows me to raise both funds AND awareness for a cause that I am passionate about and connects me with others who feel the same.”- Aaliyah
And thank you to all our dedicated and passionate volunteers. While we acknowledge our volunteers during this week, we our thankful and grateful for all they do each and every day. They are truly at the heart of JDRF and together will get us closer to a world free from type 1 diabetes.
Making history is not easy. After discovering insulin 100 years ago, Frederick Banting and Charles Best spent tireless nights isolating and purifying it to treat type 1 diabetes (T1D). Their discovery saved millions of lives. Generous donors have fueled further research breakthroughs, yet those living with T1D still require insulin to stay alive. Canada gave the world the first and still only treatment for diabetes – and JDRF knows that it’s now time to give the world a cure.
This is why JDRF has embarked on a campaign to accelerate diabetes research and has invited all Canadians to join us on the path to a cure. In only 20 months, JDRF Canada’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate has reached more than 70% of its goal.
To support the public launch of the Campaign, on Monday, April 4, 2022, five brave Canadians set out to do something historic. They decided to live atop a 40-foot flagpole for 100 hours each as part of our Let’s Make History Again event to help raise awareness and funds in pursuit of a cure for T1D, a disease that affects more than 300,000 Canadians. Located in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and two in Toronto, the uniqueness of the event and the ingenious construction of the flagpoles generated interest, fascination and helped to raise awareness of the realities of what it’s like to live with T1D.
“Let’s Make History Again is truly a rallying cry for all Canadians who have been impacted by diabetes,” says Dave Prowten, President and CEO of JDRF Canada.
“While the discovery of insulin in Canada 100 years ago has saved millions of lives, it is still only a treatment and not a cure. It is fitting that now is the time to map out the next era of discovery in type 1 diabetes research. Not only will this event provide the funds to accelerate our work finding a cure for this disease, but it’s incredibly inspiring to see so many Canadians and families galvanized by this cause that touches the lives of so many,” he continues.
After facing inhospitable weather and dealing head-on with the unique challenges that come with living atop a flagpole, history was made. The Leaders in History successfully completed the Flagpole 100 Challenge.
In 1990, Peter Oliver was the first to live on top a 40-foot flagpole to raise funds and awareness for type 1 diabetes (T1D), with a goal of raising $250,000. With his leadership and initiative, JDRF reimagined his original campaign to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first successful insulin injection and raise awareness of the 100M Campaign to Accelerate.
“I still remember getting the call when my daughter Vanessa was first diagnosed at the age of six,” says Peter Oliver. “You never forget the moment you learn your child has a disease they will need to manage for the rest of their lives. Ever since, it has been a personal commitment to do everything I can to ensure no other family experiences that moment. I’m so proud of all our Leaders in History, the volunteers and JDRF staff who have worked tirelessly to bring this event back to life. I really believe that we are on the cusp of a cure for diabetes, and it will once again mark an incredible Canadian achievement in medicine,” he continues.
It was an incredible week of excitement, connection, and momentum. The Leaders in History selflessly shared their 100 hours by participating in IG lives, posting to social media, hosting special guests, participating in media interviews, contacting donors by phone all to share what it was like to be atop their flagpole, what the event meant to them, the diabetes technology that has impacted their daily life, and how a cure would change the lives of themselves, their families, and millions of people around the globe.
But they weren’t alone. Camping in solidarity with them were Ambassadors of History families and individuals across the country, and an army of motivated supporters across Canada who also came together to support JDRF’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate.
“There are no words to truly describe what a special week this was for JDRF,” says Prowten.
“It is incredibly exciting to see all the energy around our Let’s Make History Again event. This is such a remarkable accomplishment, with great media coverage, donations and the hard work of our staff and devoted volunteers. I had the honour of visiting the sites – and was so incredibly proud – it truly takes a group of wonderful, dedicated people to make an event like this possible, and that hard work was being witnessed everywhere,” he continues.
JDRF also recognizes James and Louise Temerty, who are generously matching all donations up to $10 million through Temerty Foundation until May 31, 2022. This was the single largest gift to fund T1D research in Canadian history. The donation was made with the hopes of inspiring others to step forward to support diabetes research and bring us closer to a cure.
Their generosity resonated with Susan and Brian Beamish of WB Family Foundation; longtime JDRF supporters who were spurred to make an additional gift of $3M in support of the $100M Campaign to Accelerate.
As of April 21, 2022, the Let’s Make History Again event has raised close to $11 million in support of the most promising T1D research.
This initiative also would not have been possible without JDRF’s volunteers, donors, and corporate partners’ tireless, dedicated support. All five flagpole structures were fabricated and painted entirely by volunteers. As well, all the structural materials, supplies and services were generously donated at no cost to JDRF to bring Peter Oliver’s vision to life. Thank you to everyone involved.
JDRF is deeply grateful to our many supporters uniting for a cure, helping Canada to make history again:
Bercon Rentals Inc
Chop Steakhouse & Bar
Crawford Metal Corp
D. Dyment Haulage
Equal Parts Hospitality
Gradient Wind Engineering
Groupe Atwill-Morin Inc.
Grouse Mountain Resort
Les entreprises d’électricité E.G. Ltée
Moduloc Fence Rentals
Mulvey & Banani International Inc
Myshak Crane & Rigging
Northern Mat & Bridge LP
Pomp & Circumstance
PPG Paints Canada
Protec Installation Group
Read Jones Christoffersen
Revelstoke Mountain Resort
RKM Crane Services LTD
Roche Diabetes Care
RTI Industrial Ltd
Safety First Consulting
Sandman Hotel Group
Shadeview Structures Inc.
Tandem Diabetes Care Canada, Inc.
The Sutton Place Hotels
Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Canada)
Westcan Scaffolding Inc
Western Electrical Management Ltd.
It’s never been a more exciting time in T1D research, and with your support, every day we get closer to a world free from type 1 diabetes. Thank you, Canada.
A significant part of JDRF’s research strategy is funding innovative therapies that can lead to treatment for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and eventually a cure. As part of this it was announced on April 6, 2022, that Vancouver, BC, Canada and New York, NY based company Aspect Biosystems (“Aspect”), are partnering to develop a bioengineered tissue therapeutic treatment for T1D. Aspect is a biotechnology company that develops bioengineered tissue therapeutics to transform how diseases are treated.
What is the aim of the partnership?
The JDRF-Aspect partnership supports Aspect’s development of bioengineered tissues that will provide insulin independence and control of blood sugar without the need for chronic immune suppression. In addition to funding, JDRF is also contributing strategic support through its vast network in the diabetes research field.
How does it work?
Diabetes researchers are always searching for a renewable source of insulin-producing cells that could conceivably replace or act as the beta cells that are destroyed in a person with T1D. This would allow them to produce insulin again, and either lessen or ideally eliminate the administration of exogenous (not produced intrinsically by the body) insulin required by someone living with T1D (either by injection, pen, or pump).
The biggest challenges to this are identifying the appropriate stem cell source (i.e., pancreatic cells, or liver cells) and ensuring that not only do they work to produce insulin – but they also won’t be rejected by a person’s immune system. Much like a transplanted organ – most of these kinds of therapies require immunosuppressing medications to prevent rejection.
Aspect is leveraging its proprietary bioprinting technology, therapeutic cells, and materials science to create a pipeline of cell-based tissue therapeutics that replace or repair damaged organ functions. These tissue therapeutics are engineered to be biologically functional, immune-protective, and suitable for surgical implantation to treat diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
In other words – these bioengineered cells could become an external and renewable source of beta cells that could be available to anyone with T1D. Cells that can be safely transplanted and start producing insulin, without the need for any immunosuppression medication, would be a game-changer in T1D treatment.
“For more than 20 years, JDRF has been a leader in cell-based tissue therapy research for type 1 diabetes,” said Esther Latres, Assistant Vice President of Research at JDRFI, of which JDRF Canada is an affiliate organization. “This funding partnership with Aspect Biosystems will support and continue scientific advancements in the field and undeniably take us closer to finding a cure.”
What are the next steps?
The partnership will provide the funding needed to advance Aspect’s cutting-edge pancreatic tissue program. The work proposed by Aspect’s researchers will generate a powerful pre-clinical data-package that will position the company to be ready to initiate the first-in-human trials of this kind of therapy.
It’s never been a more exciting time in T1D scientific discovery. JDRF is so pleased to be part of this ground-breaking research and will provide updates on developments as they become available.