Development of a genetic risk score for type 1 diabetes

The causes of type 1 diabetes (T1D) are complex and not fully understood. What is known is that there is a genetic component to developing T1D – but who is at greater risk?

JDRF Canada is pleased to announce a new JDRF grant to support Dr. Despoina Manousaki, pediatric endocrinologist and genetic epidemiologist at Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal, that will allow her and her team to explore how the genome of an individual can predict the risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D). The more we can understand about the genetic predisposition of T1D, the more effectively we can screen for this risk and develop therapies to halt or delay the progression of the disease.

Dr. Manousaki, a former JDRF postdoctoral fellow, leads a research program focused on the genetics of complex disease in childhood.

How do genetic risk scores for type 1 diabetes work?

Existing genetic risk scores for T1D were largely developed using data from White European populations, which differ substantially from Canada’s diverse population. In her new JDRF-funded project, Dr. Manousaki will develop a trans-ancestral polygenic risk score for T1D, in simpler terms – looking at how different ancestral backgrounds and genetics influence the risk of developing T1D. These newly developed risk scores will be used in research and clinical practice to assess T1D in a more equitable manner. Since the existing polygenic risk scores perform poorly in diverse ancestral populations (as they were developed primarily in White European populations), there is a need to diversify these scores, particularly for T1D-related genes which are known to vary between people of different ancestral backgrounds.

Dr. Manousaki will use machine learning approaches that employ computers and algorithms to examine large European genetic datasets while incorporating genetic information from African, Indian, Latino, South-East Asian and Chinese ancestries. This will create more precise individual risk estimates of developing T1D, an important step for informing T1D screening in a diverse population. By having a better understanding of who might develop T1D, clinical teams can better select candidates across diverse Canadian populations for clinical monitoring as well as T1D prevention trials.

With the recent FDA approval of teplizumab (brand name Tzield), the first ever disease-modifying therapy that can delay the onset of T1D, research like that performed by Dr. Manousaki and her team will ensure that new T1D therapies are tested and applied appropriately in the diverse Canadian T1D community.

Safe and immune cloaked stem cell-derived beta-cells: treatment for type 1 diabetes

A significant part of JDRF Canada’s research strategy is funding the most promising cure-based research for type 1 diabetes (T1D).

T1D is an autoimmune disease where the body destroys the cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin. People with T1D must administer external sources of insulin, either through multiple daily injections, pump or pen in order to survive. Many cure-based research studies involve replacing these cells through transplantation, in the hopes that they will start producing insulin again.

Transplantation of donor cells could be a possible cure for type 1 diabetes

Transplantation of donor pancreatic islet tissue is a promising therapy; however, transplant therapy is limited due to shortage of transplantable islets (from deceased donors), limited durability of transplanted cells (cells that stop working or growing after transplantation), and the need for long-term immunosuppression therapy to prevent immune-based rejection of the transplanted cells, similar to organ transplants. Identifying alternative and more universal sources of transplantable beta cells is necessary to make this potential therapy available to larger numbers of people living T1D, and the Nagy lab is dedicated to achieving this.

How does it work?

In a brand-new JDRF funded project, Dr. Andras Nagy, senior investigator at the Lunenfeld–Tanenbaum Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, is testing the functionality of insulin-producing cells created from human stem cells. In collaboration with Dr. Timothy Kieffer (University of British Columbia), Dr. Nagy’s team will cultivate insulin-producing islet cells from an unlimited supply of human stem cells for a potentially unlimited cell therapy.

These cells will incorporate two gene-editing technologies previously developed and patented by the Nagy lab: (1)Dr. Nagy’s FailSafeTM technology is a gene-editing solution that employs an inducible kill-switch to rapidly eliminate dividing, potentially tumour-forming, cells, thereby eliminating the risk of tumours following transplantation of a stem cell-derived cell product. (2) Dr. Nagy and his colleagues have developed an “immunocloaking” strategy for the transplanted cells by modifying specific genes that allow these cells to remain hidden from an immune system attack.

These technologies will offer solutions to the safety concerns of cell therapy and the autoimmune challenge found in T1D, which could allow for stem cell transplants without the need for immunosuppression.

This is an exciting project that harnesses the most cutting-edge methods to develop a safe and effective cell therapy solution that may lead to a cure for T1D.

JDRF Canada will provide updates on this research as it becomes available, and when it moves to the clinical trials stage.

JDRF Canada Youth Advocate Tilly Stimpson selected to represent Canada at the JDRF 2023 Children’s Congress

Tilly Stimpson, JDRF Canada in Washington. Blog Hero Profile Image.

Every two years, more than 160 children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) gather in Washington, D.C., to meet face-to-face with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government. Similar to Kids for a Cure, the youth delegates in JDRF’s Children’s Congress take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help US Members of Congress understand what life with T1D is like and why research to fund both life-changing and cure-based therapies is so critical. These amazing kids bravely represent the millions of people living with T1D and their families and loved ones.

Tilly Stimpson was diagnosed with T1D at age 2 and a half, in 2010. She has said that ‘Ever since I was diagnosed, raising awareness has been extremely important for me and my family,’ and she has been living that ethos through an extraordinary legacy of volunteering and advocacy with JDRF Canada.

Tilly has attended Kids for a Cure three times, twice in person and once virtually during the early part of the pandemic. She has been a key speaker at the Access for All speakers circuit in Pickering and surrounding areas, and a spokesperson for Access for All at Queens Park (parliament buildings in Toronto for the government of Ontario). She has advocated at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) a key JDRF Canada funding partner for vital cure-based research.

In 2021, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, Tilly wrote 100 letters to seniors in nursing homes and the community to provide company during Covid lockdowns.

She is also an active youth ambassador, has filmed countless videos and participated in several activities with JDRF.

But Tilly is not just a volunteer and advocate, she is a prolific fundraiser too.

Some of her fundraising achievements include, but are not limited to:

Tilly has raised an incredible over $80,000 for diabetes research.

And if that was not enough, Tilly has also participated in two clinical trials, been a stock image photography model for diabetes representation and was nominated in her hometown for her advocacy work for ‘Inspire Women: Day of the Girl’

‘I am absolutely honored to be chosen to represent Canada at the International Children’s Congress.

“Advocacy and educating about T1D are important to me and to be given the opportunity to have a voice alongside international delegates is extremely exciting. I hope I make Canada proud!” says Tilly.

Read more about Tilly on her application here

The JDRF 2023 Children’s Congress takes place between July 9 – 11, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

JDRF Canada once again congratulates Tilly, and we know she will make all Canadians affected by T1D so proud. She already has.

JDRF Canada is pleased to announce the launch of JDRF Your Way

A newly re-tooled third-party fundraising program is now available across Canada: JDRF Your Way.

Support. Participate. Fundraise… Your Way

JDRF’s foundations lie in grassroots efforts and fundraising, and our accomplishments as an organization can be traced back to the power of our incredible community. In 1974, four years after JDRF was founded in the United States, a group of parents determined to find a cure for their children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) came together and began JDRF Canada, launching the largest funder and advocate for T1D research in Canada.

Although the focus was and remains finding cures for T1D; since then, JDRF has helped fund research that has led to innovation and evolution of treatments that improve the quality of life for people living with T1D, and fulfill our vision of a world without T1D, while supporting our mission of improving lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications.

JDRF Your Way harnesses that energy to let supporters fundraise in ways that are meaningful to them. Whether it is holding a yoga class, coordinating a soccer tournament, celebrating a special event, or recognizing a ‘Diaversary’ (the date of diagnosis) – JDRF Your Way provides our community with the tools and resources needed to feel supported and be successful.

Meet Leah, who fundraised her way by organizing her own Ride in support of her daughters living with T1D

“My hope is that the funds raised help move forward research projects so that someday my two daughters, Erica and Tara, and others with T1D can live without the burden of this disease.”

The Pictou County Ride for a Cure is an annual fundraising event in Nova Scotia that brings motorcycle and bicycle riders together to create awareness and show their support for type 1 diabetes research.

Meet Vincent, who is looking to raise $100,000 in a series of runs to honour his son’s one-year DiaVersary

“January 5th, 2023, I completed my challenge of running 32 kilometres of the Saint-Charles River Linear Park, as part of a fundraising campaign to mark my son’s one-year anniversary of his diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. In fact, I even ran 35.85 thanks to a course error that made me take a long detour!

Beyond the fundraising, the day allowed us to live an extraordinary family moment. My two boys joined me to run the last kilometre, from the Quebec City Courthouse to Espace 400e. In the evening, we gave Thomas an album celebrating the one-year anniversary of his diagnosis of type I diabetes. The album contains messages of encouragement from family, friends, teachers, and coaches to provide him with the comfort he deserves whenever he is demoralized by the efforts and sacrifices that diabetes requires. He was moved to tears when he started reading the messages, especially his brother’s.”

Meet Anne, a teenager living with T1D who held a fundraiser called The 100 Project to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin

“The idea behind The 100 Project was to seek $100 donations from 100 Canadian businesses large and small, with a goal of raising a minimum $10,000, to commemorate the centennial of Frederick Banting’s and Charles Best’s discovery of life-saving insulin.

Even when insulin was discovered, Banting and Best didn’t make it complicated. They sold the insulin patents for $1, which is what allowed insulin to be accessible to people. Frederick Banting said, ‘Insulin belongs to the world, not to me’ – they realized insulin is such a life-saving drug that can make such a difference. I would not be here without it.”

Meet Rob, who turned his passion for sports and being on the water into a fundraiser for T1D research

“A few years after starting the Medicine Hat waterski club in 2016, I wanted to organize a 24-hour waterski event and raise money for JDRF, in honour of my daughter’s 2013 T1D diagnosis. After a considerable amount of planning, we decided to split the event over two days and hold it on the longest day of the year, June 21, starting at 5pm on the first day and stopping when we could no longer see, and resuming the following morning at 5am, when the sun came up.

We were able to gather funds and auction items, and had 21 riders involved, rotating turns until the sun went down. The event continued the next day, with slalom skiing, hydro-foiling, surfing, wakeboarding, and even tubing. Once everyone was off the water, we had a band play to finish off the evening. We were able to raise approx. $5500 that went directly to JDRF.”

A newly developed website offers creative fundraising ideas, a FAQ section and fundraising tools and resources, along with contact information for our JDRF Staff Partner and Support Teams available to help you make your fundraiser a success.

With JDRF Your Way we have made starting a personal fundraiser easier, so you can make an even bigger impact by funding ground-breaking T1D research and providing the necessary supports to those living with T1D to ensure they live healthier, safer, and easier lives today.

Have questions or need more information? Please reach out at