The Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes was back in-person and an enormous success!

One of Canada’s longest running and top fundraising events returned to in-person Rides in Montréal and Toronto, on October 6 and 13, 2022 respectively, along with virtual rides across the country. For 35 years Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF has been bringing together corporate executives and teams to pedal for a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Participants from corporate Canada jumped on dozens of stationary bikes set up at two signature Ride locations in Montréal and Toronto or participated from their homes in the virtual event between October 6-13. Whether in-person or virtual, Canadians once again showed their competitive spirit to raise funds to help fund the most promising research into cures and therapies for T1D.

Almost 870 teams and over 3600 fundraisers from more than 70 Canadian companies coast to coast joined us either in person or virtually. To date participants have secured more than 10,500 donations for the Ride program. We could not be more grateful for everyone’s efforts!

Thank you to SpinCo., Orangetheory, Mula Yoga and Luna Yoga. We are very appreciative of their time and expertise, and for providing our participants with gym quality workouts they could do at home.

JDRF would also like to acknowledge Peter Oliver, an amazing man and supporter who sadly passed away in late September 2022. In 1986, shortly after he began volunteering at JDRF after his daughter Vanessa’s diagnosis when she was just six years old, he founded the JDRF Ride to Defeat Diabetes. In the years since, the event has raised over $70 million for diabetes research, and has introduced thousands of volunteers to the JDRF mission. He was never far from our minds, and we will always remember his unwavering spirit and dedication to finding a cure for diabetes every Ride.

JDRF is thrilled to announce that over $1.4 million and counting has been raised for this year’s Ride program to support T1D research. To everyone who participated in the Ride, whether in-person or virtual – thank you. Together, we made a difference for the close to 300,000 Canadians who live with type 1 diabetes.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our sponsor and volunteers, without whom this event would not be a success. Thanks to their support, we were also able to offer an incredible day of high energy workouts and music, highlight inspirational stories through video and speakers, and ultimately get us closer to our goal for cures for type 1 diabetes.

Sun Life has been a proud supporter of the Ride since 2017, and in 2019 they became the national title sponsor. Sun Life is committed to supporting the over 422 million people worldwide living with the disease.

Thank you again to everyone who participated and to our incredible corporate partners.
We hope to see you all next year!

Adgar Canada



JLL Canada

Mackies Moving Systems


Avison Young



KingSett Capital

Michael Kors


Bothwell Accurate

Crown Property Management

GWL Realty Advisors


Opus Mechanical

Stewart McKelvey

Important update on teplizumab – a therapeutic that may help delay the onset of type 1 diabetes

A key tenet of JDRF’s research funding strategy is that there are multiple pathways to cures for type 1 diabetes (T1D), one of which includes screening for risk and use of therapeutics to delay or even prevent the onset of the disease developing – to give more time to the individual to adapt before requiring external insulin.

On Thursday, October 6, 2022, Provention Bio announced that it will partner with pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi to support the launch of teplizumab, if it is approved for use in the general population.

What does this partnership mean?

JDRF, through research grants, T1D Fund investments, and advocacy, has accelerated multiple potential disease modifying therapies for T1D that may help to move the field towards this goal. Screening is the only way that individuals can determine their risk and to find out if they are candidates for such therapies.

The importance of screening

Canadians who have a family member with T1D can currently be screened via TrialNet. Research has shown that family members of people with T1D are at a 15x greater risk of developing T1D than the general population.

The goal for this program aligns with JDRF’s research strategy of identifying preventative and screening measures that will stop the disease before it starts.

A biologic drug called teplizumab has shown great promise as the first ever disease-modifying therapy for T1D. In clinical trials led by TrialNet and supported by JDRF and other funders, teplizumab was able to significantly delay—for over two years—the onset of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in participants with a high risk of developing the disease, the first time a study in humans demonstrated a delay in the onset of T1D.

In long-term follow up of trial participants, and the effect of teplizumab was even more striking: 50% of those treated with teplizumab remain diabetes-free, compared to only 22% of those taking placebo, and the delay in diabetes onset was close to 3 years (35 months).

Additionally, the participants, in both the teplizumab and placebo groups, had had a progressive decline in the biomarker that measure’s the body’s ability to produce insulin—C-peptide—preceding the trial. But the study team found that production of C-peptide went up following treatment with teplizumab, particularly in the first 6 months after treatment. Teplizumab could potentially reverse the downward trajectory of C-peptide loss that was there before the trial.

The drug, now being developed by Provention Bio, was submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in early 2021 – and was the first disease-modifying drug ever submitted for approval to the regulator for use in T1D. On May 27, 2021, an advisory committee to the FDA recommended that teplizumab be approved for prevention of T1D.

However, on July 2, 2022, the FDA issued a Complete Response Letter to Provention Bio,. but ultimately the drug was not approved, and the company was asked to provide more data on issues concerning manufacturing before resubmitting for approval

What’s next?

As of October 2022, teplizumab is again under review at the FDA. The FDA has until November 17th to finish its review of the application.

As a part of this co-promotion agreement, Sanofi will bring its extensive network of industry leaders and sales and marketing team to Provention Bio, meaning it can support increased screening and help raise awareness for teplizumab which, if approved, will be the first-ever disease modifying therapy for T1D.

The JDRF T1D fund made a strategic investment in Provention Bio in 2017 that brought the company into T1D for the first time. That investment has helped catalyze hundreds of millions of dollars toward clinical development, regulatory work, and launch preparation that led to the partnership with Sanofi.

This partnership demonstrates an endorsement of the potential for T1D disease-modifying therapies from one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, if teplizumab is approved by the FDA, the agreement will allow more people to learn about the drug and ideally benefit from it.

JDRF’s T1D Fund has more than 20 active cures programs in development. Sanofi’s support of teplizumab gives us confidence that large pharmaceutical companies will invest more readily in these ground-breaking programs and help drive toward cures faster.

Learn more at the press release.

JDRF Canada will continue to follow the results of the FDA application review and provide updates as to when teplizumab may be available for use in Canada.

JDRF Canada and Stem Cell Network announce the first recipient of the J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes Blog

Karoliina Tuomela is a postdoctoral researcher at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at the University of British Columbia, and the first recipient of a J. Andrew McKee Fellowship in Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), jointly funded by JDRF Canada and the Stem Cell Network (SCN) based at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at the University of British Columbia (UBC).  JDRF had the pleasure of connecting with Dr. Tuomela to congratulate her on her new fellowship, and talk about what’s next.   

Tell me a little bit more about your background.  

“I’ve come from the UK to Canada, to Vancouver. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen where I studied biomedical science, and then moved to Manchester to get into cancer research. They have a really fantastic cancer research center there. I did my Masters there in oncology and then carried on to do my PhD in cancer research, and focused on how radiotherapy affects the way that immune cells interact with cancer cells. What I took away from my Masters and for my PhD, from the research work, was this desire to understand how immune cells interact with each other, how they interact with other cells, and how those interactions really tune and enable the function of the immune cell.”

What brought you to Vancouver?  

 “I wanted to branch away from cancer a little bit, and understand the immune system in different contexts. So, I came to Vancouver, BC, into Dr. Megan Levings’ lab, where she works on regulatory T cells (Tregs). I’ve never worked on T cells before, so I’ve been learning loads of things. It’s fantastic to get a new perspective on immunology and get some fresh ideas.”  

What drew you to  type 1 diabetes?  

 “It has such a profound impact over the lifetime of the patients, from very early years for some kids. And it’s fantastic to be working in an area where there’s so much potential to see my research actually make a clinical impact, and make an impact that could really change someone’s life from very early years onwards. I find it really appealing to work within the area of type 1 diabetes. It is really encouraging and motivating.”  

What are you planning on investigating at the JDRF Center of Excellence at UBC?  

“I’m working on Tregs. Our goal is to develop Tregs that we can use in adoptive cell therapy. So we can take these Tregs, which is an immunosuppressive T cell subset, and we can take them out of a person, we can expand them in our lab. And then the goal is to infuse these back into a patient and they suppress the immune response that’s involved in type 1 diabetes. So that’s the broader goal within the lab. And where my work comes in is studying the metabolism of these Tregs that we’re working on and engineering them to respond better in the pancreatic microenvironment.    

Currently, to treat many autoimmune diseases, we rely on really strong immunomodulatory or immunosuppressive drugs, but they have a really huge effect on the well-being of a patient and the health of a patient. The ultimate goal is to move away from using strong immunosuppressive drugs and actually be able to target the  response that’s involved in diabetes. And so that’s why we’re engineering Tregs to specifically target the immune response that’s killing beta cells in the body.”   

How is the JDRF-SCN fellowship going to impact your research?  

 “The funding itself is really incredible. Unfortunately, research is expensive and we need donations and we need funding. It’s really fantastic that JDRF and SCN have decided to invest in me specifically, I think that’s very encouraging. But also, JDRF and the SCN are huge networks of researchers, of scientists across the country, across the continent and across the world. Whenever you start bringing scientists together, particularly from different areas of research – I’m an immunologist, but I’m working with stem cell biologists, with clinicians – and when you bring all those perspectives together in kind of the unique way that the JDRF does especially, I think that there’s so much opportunity for learning, for creating these networks that really support research. I think a lot of the most exciting research comes from collaborations between different fields.”  

What’s something you wish more people knew about your field?  

“I think it can be difficult from the outside to understand just how circuitous research is. How much the path weaves around. It’s not a straight road from, having a hypothesis and then doing some experiments and finding out the truth. Sometimes you hit dead ends, even though something seemed very promising, and sometimes you might find two things that disagree with each other, and you need to figure out why.   

“And sometimes it’s easy to look at big headlines in newspapers, in articles, that kind of give us this sense of reality, [but] that finding can be oversold, or it can be exaggerated, and then it can be really discouraging when you see another headline that gives you conflicting information. And this isn’t scientists kind of pretending that their work is better than it is. It’s not scientists lying about their work. That’s just how science works, is that sometimes it leads to conflicting information, but in the end, the goal of everyone working in science is working towards the truth. But sometimes you take a few steps backwards.   

“Sometimes scientists will publish information and then a couple years later, they might find that there was a flaw in that and they’ll publish something that might be different, and that’s totally normal in science. But it doesn’t take away, I think, from the reliability of science or how much we can trust in in scientists and in medicine. It’s just part of the process.” 

What were some of the more surprising challenges of your research or your career?   

“I think what surprised me moving from my undergrad into actual research was the amount of teamwork that goes on. You get told during your undergrad or back at school that “you just get your work done and you’ll be fine, focus on what you’re doing yourself”. But actually, you enter into research and it’s all teamwork. You need to be working together. You need to be sharing your data and your ideas and that’s where the best research comes from, is through teamwork. I think that’s not something that I was aware of before going into research, is how team based it is. But it’s been an absolute pleasure, developing a lot of those communication skills. A lot of those teamwork skills that are necessary in research, in doing good research.   

“I think people have an idea of lone scientists, just in the lab, on your own, doing your work. And that’s absolutely not it– there are times when you’re in the lab at midnight on your own, but from a broader perspective, you can’t work on your own.”  

On a similar note, how does the JDRF Center of Excellence and those opportunities for collaboration affect your work right now, especially because you’re coming to a type 1 diabetes lab with a background in oncology?  

 “There’s been a lot of learning in the past few months. I obviously hadn’t worked on diabetes before joining Dr. Levings’ lab, so I’m still learning about the biology of diabetes, how it’s treated, how it impacts patients. Autoimmunity is almost the opposite of the spectrum from cancer in many ways, so learning about the biology of that has been difficult, but there’s been so much help. There’s a huge network here and I know that I can turn to different people who have expertise in the areas where I specifically need it. Because in the end, we all share the same goal and we’re all working towards potentially combining what we’re working on at the end goal. I’m working on the immunology side, other people will be working on the stem cell side, and really, the end goal is to be combining those in the future.”   

What are some of your favourite aspects of what you do as a researcher?  

“My favourite thing is always, as simple as it might sound, looking under a microscope, looking at immune cells, and looking at how they move around, how they interact, because it shows how complex our bodies are. How interesting it is, if just taking a few cells out of our body and looking at it under a microscope is that interesting and complex, how complex is our body as a whole? And so, just chipping away at that complexity is really exciting, in my opinion.”   

What interests you or excites you outside of your research?  

“I love climbing mountains, I love hiking and climbing, and I get excited about getting outdoors.  I love getting away from the business and really feeling the openness of the mountains of nature and that serenity.”  

JDRF Canada thanks Dr. Tuomela for her time and congratulates her on the fellowship award. We wish her the best of luck with her post-doctoral work, and we will share research updates when they become available.