Exciting news: stem cell-based treatments producing insulin in participants with type 1 diabetes

*Image taken from viacyte.com/pipeline/

A significant focus of JDRF is funding the most promising research that could lead to potential cure therapies for type 1 diabetes (T1D).

ViaCyte, a cell replacement company long supported by JDRF, has three separate stem cell replacement therapy products in development, all with the aim of reducing or eliminating the need for external insulin for people with T1D.

Researchers look for ways to use stem cells as a renewable source of insulin-producing cells which, when transplanted, would replace the beta cells that are destroyed in a person with T1D, allowing them to produce insulin again. This would lessen or eliminate the amount of external insulin required by someone living with T1D (either by injection, pen, or pump) for months or even decades.

The biggest challenges to stem cell replacement therapy are identifying the appropriate stem cell source (i.e., pancreatic cells, or liver cells) and ensuring that they both function well and will not be rejected by the recipient’s immune system. Much like a transplanted organ – most stem cell replacement therapies require immunosuppressing medications to prevent rejection.

Updates on ViaCyte Clinical Trials

PEC-Encap (VC-01™; see middle figure) was ViaCyte’s first product including a stem-cell derived precursor that once implanted in humans has demonstrated that they will mature into beta cells that produce insulin.

The company’s second technology, PEC Direct (VC-02™; see top figure), has now been the subject of two papers that report the preliminary results of its clinical study, which involved an international team of clinicians and researchers including several at the University of Alberta and at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

The UBC-VCH study is part of larger international clinical trials led by ViaCyte, which is also studying the effectiveness of cell-replacement therapy on participants in sites across Canada, the U.S. and Belgium.

One of the new papers reports on 15 trial participants studied at the Vancouver site. At the start of the UBC-VCH study, each participant had several ViaCyte cell-containing devices implanted just below the skin. Each device, thin as a credit card, contained millions of lab-grown cells that originally came from a single stem cell line. These cells had been trained to mature into insulin-producing beta cells.

Six months after implantation, the cells had not only survived but successfully matured into insulin-producing beta cells, which helped the trial participants to sense blood sugar levels and release insulin when needed.

This study used levels of C-peptide (released into the blood as a byproduct of insulin production) to measure insulin produced by the implanted cells. The researchers found C-peptide levels rose after patients ate a meal—evidence of normal beta cell function. This is significant as external insulin (either received via injection, pump or pen) does not generate C-peptide.

Participants also spent 13 per cent more time in target blood sugar range and some were able to reduce the amount of insulin they injected.

The insulin produced through the implanted cells was not enough for participants to forgo external insulin altogether, but the cells did survive and maintain function a full year post-transplantation. This demonstrates the potential for durability of this kind of cell replacement therapy, and may ideally prevent frequent implantation, which must be done surgically. Importantly, the trial did not reveal any safety concerns.

This research was supported by funding from JDRF Canada, as well as Canada’s Stem Cell Network, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, ViaCyte Inc. and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

What does this mean for people with T1D?

These studies offer hope and cautious optimism about cell replacement therapy as a possible pathway to a T1D cure.

“Our findings demonstrate the incredible potential of this stem cell-based treatment. With further research, this treatment could one day eliminate dependence on insulin injections and transform the management of Type 1 diabetes,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Timothy Kieffer, professor in UBC faculty of medicine’s departments of surgery and cellular and physiological sciences, who was recently appointed as ViaCyte’s chief scientific officer.  

The next step is researchers need to determine what cells are optimal for transplantation, and the best transplantation site. There also needs to be further study on how long the cells work effectively, remain safe, whether ta greater number of cells is required for long-term insulin production, and whether it is possible to eliminate immunosuppressive therapy.

A third ViaCyte cell replacement product including a gene-edited stem cell source, VCTX210, developed in partnership with CRISPR Technologies, was recently approved for clinical trial by Health Canada. Unlike the PEC-Direct product used in the newly published results, this product would not require immunosuppression – a key next step on the cell replacement roadmap. (See Figure 3)

Read more here: jdrf.ca/exciting-news-about-new-health-canada-approved-clinical-trials/

The ViaCyte clinical trials are one of several potential cell replacement cures therapies JDRF supports globally, as part of its overall research strategy.  Read more about it here: jdrf.ca/research/

Tannis M. Richardson – lifetime of challenges, vignettes of my life

Tannis, along with her late husband George T. Richardson, were founding members of JDRF’s Winnipeg chapter (1971) and the city’s A Starry Starry Night Gala in support of JDRF. Tannis has also been on both the national and international boards for JDRF, which was formally established in Canada in 1974.

At 95 years old, Tannis is known throughout Western Canada for her exemplary community service and volunteerism.

While she always led a life of service, it was the discovery that one of their four children – their daughter Pamela – had type 1 diabetes (T1D) that found the family on the frontline of a battle they knew little about. Diagnosed at nine-years-old, they had to learn to manage a disease that was not well understood at the time, or well supported by Manitoba or Canada’s healthcare system.

It was because of this that the family became devoted to raising awareness of T1D and ensuring adequate supports for Manitobans living with the disease, something Tannis still does today with her support of universal access for diabetes devices and technologies through JDRF’s #AccessForAll program.

Sadly, Pamela died at the age of 29 from complications of diabetes. Shortly thereafter, Tannis and George were invited by Helaine Shiff, (another JDRF Canada founder) to attend the JDRF gala in Toronto.

“The gala in Toronto was a huge and lovely affair. The next morning, I phoned to tell Helaine what a wonderful job she had done – to which she responded, ‘that’s all very well Tannis, but what are you going to do in Winnipeg to help JDRF’.

I was at a dinner few weeks later in Winnipeg, and I was sitting next to (Regional Director, CBC Western Division) Donald Ferguson, when he asked me – what are we going to do in Winnipeg about JDRF. I replied who do you mean by ‘we’ – to which he replied CBC & you (Tannis). Due to this conversation we started to discuss what we could do. Eventually the idea came to us to have a gala.”

There were three other families in Winnipeg that were active and interested in what they could do to help fundraise for diabetes research, and together we formed a committee that organized Winnipeg’s first JDRF gala, A Starry Starry Night, named after one of Tannis’s favourite songs, and held on the plaza at City Hall. Today, nearly 35 years later, the annual gala remains one of Winnipeg’s premier fundraising events.

“I’ve seen so many changes during my time with JDRF,” says Tannis. “There is so much knowledge about diabetes now being publicized. It was slow coming, and with our high incidence of diabetes in Manitoba, it took a while before it started coming to the forefront. It was a slow start, but steady. And of course, the A Starry Starry Night Gala certainly helped a great many people realize what a challenge it was to have diabetes. It allowed us to show the public how life changing and life challenging T1D is, and why T1D research needs to be financed.”

Part of Tannis’ ongoing support came with the publication of her autobiography, Vignettes from My Life, which was self-financed so that 100% of the proceeds can go to JDRF.

“I remember so much of my life, what I’ve experienced and what’s happened – so it was suggested that I make an oral history of my experiences. I did that for a year with Janet Walker, (from the University of Winnipeg) but it evolved from there to thinking about putting it down on paper. “I guess I am a storyteller, and what resonated for me is that there was a purpose in telling my story.

Tannis met with Dorothy Ross, JDRF’s Director of Leadership Giving for a lunch, where they discussed JDRF, the pace of research and the Campaign to Accelerate. During this conversation Tannis informed Dorothy she would like to make a transformational gift in support of the Global Research Pillar, which will harness the work of world-leading investigators and trainees both in Canada and globally to make breakthroughs in areas of T1D screening, prevention, better treatment, and cures.

“There has to be something there that is going to be the breakthrough. Stem cell research seems to be the best thing that we know how to do, and if supporting the research monetarily helps us find a cure, we need to get the word out there,” Tannis explains of her reason to contribute to this area of T1D research. So many people feel that they are not able to donate, but if they realize that whatever they can give is a step forward, it all helps,” she explains.

“People feel we’ve been looking for a cure for a long time, but finding insulin was a game changing discovery. Once that one discovery was made, everything could come from that.  I feel that way about (T1D) research now – because it’s advancing so quickly. Today is the time to support it. If contributions are going to make that a reality. While we can’t foresee the future, for people with diabetes – a cure will mean their whole life will change. It will take a lot of work and struggle before they find the answer, I’m hoping it’s tomorrow.  At the age of 95 I hope I see it in my lifetime. I want to be part of it,” says Tannis.

JDRF is so thankful to Tannis for her remarkable contributions, and we are proud to announce her most recent generous investment in diabetes research during National Diabetes Awareness Month.

“There’s always a bright light in a challenge, and for me – it’s the wonderful people who are contributing who have enriched my life,” she says. ‘I feel very honored that I have met so many incredible people through JDRF. It is quite an organization – once you are in battle you realize that there are so many people who are working so hard to bring the end to and help us to finally win. The JDRF group are very special to me.”

A Year in Review: Why Advocacy Matters

Why advocacy matters

The driving force behind JDRF’s government relations and advocacy strategy is to help Canada’s decision-makers understand the impact of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and what needs to be done to improve the lives of those affected by the disease. We put T1D on the government agenda by actively participating in the legislative decision-making process and giving a voice to the most pressing issues facing the T1D community.

A year in review

In 2021, we set out to renew continued investments in T1D research through the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes, expand access to the Disability Tax Credit and support the creation of a national diabetes framework. The federal government announced their commitment to all three of these issues in Budget 2021 and have set the wheels in motion for implementation.

Provincially, our Access For All campaign helped to increase access, affordability and use of advanced glucose monitoring technology with new public coverage in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In addition, expansion of insulin pump programs in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan mean more people can access these devices.

None of this work would be possible without our incredible and passionate volunteers. We are always building our grassroots advocacy network to be able to achieve Access for All for even more Canadians impacted by T1D.

Federal Accomplishments

  • Government of Canada renewed funding for JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes
  • National diabetes framework aka Diabetes 360⁰, improvements to DTC also achieved in Budget ’21
  • Bringing Breakthroughs to Life: Type 1 Diabetes Research Symposium draws 228 participants including Health Canada staff, researchers, clinicians, diabetes organizations, others.

Provincial Accomplishments

  • Access For All BC Online Community Consultations drew 128 participants (including a dozen BC MLAs) – All MLAs emailed a summary video with clips from the event
  • Presentations to BC Liberal and NDP Caucus
  • Expanded access to insulin pump coverage in two provinces – MB (to age 25) & SK (to all ages)
  • New CGM coverage in four provinces – includes MB (until age 25), SK (until age 18), QC and BC (all ages but w/ eligibility criteria & only one vendor)

There is still much work to be done, and our advocacy efforts, along with those of our T1D community, will continue to focus on patient choice, universal accessibility and improving lives today.

In her own words.

JDRF Advocacy intern Anne Pettigrew on why she volunteers

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month (NDAM)! NDAM means something different to every person living with or affected by T1D. T1D is a very personal, individualized disease, and no two people with type 1 diabetes are exactly the same in terms of how they manage their diabetes, the diabetes technology they may use, or with their personal diabetes stories. We are all individual people who happen to live with the same disease. That’s why it makes sense that NDAM is meaningful to each of us in a slightly different way.

Personally, I feel like if there was ever a perfect time to get loud about T1D, it would be during the month that is devoted to raising awareness about diabetes. However, while November is a month where I get loud about T1D, it is also a month where I quietly reflect on my diabetes journey, how far I have come, and how far is still left to go. For me, NDAM is a time of pride, wonder, pondering, and grief – all at once. It is a rollercoaster of a month, and at times it can be a scary one to ride, but I look forward to it every year because it is – for me, at least – the perfect opportunity to advocate for T1D.

Advocacy is most effective when it is personalized to the advocate. This is especially true when the advocacy concerns something as individualized as T1D. For this reason, when I am talking about T1D with the intent to educate about it, I make sure to keep it very personal to me. I tell my story, speak to my personal experiences, and advocate for T1D issues that I care and know the most about.

That is not to say that any one of the several problems that people with T1D face is more important than othess. T1D is a multi-faceted, three-dimensional disease that demands so much from a person – financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and with regards to time. – None of these demands are less worthy of being advocated for than another.

There are many equally important ways that T1D management could be made easier with increased support from the government, from communities, and from healthcare providers; but, with so many problems that need to be solved, it is too much for one advocate to take on alone. That is why advocacy needs to be personal – there are approximately 300,000 people with T1D in Canada, all of us with our own stories that deserve to be told, and all of us impacted differently by things like the price of insulin, access to medical technology, and the physical and mental burdens of living with this disease. One person cannot tell 300,000 stories in a way that will make a lasting impression; it is much more effective if we each focus on telling our own story

For example, I use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to make my management safer and easier, and CGMs are not covered by the provincial government in Ontario where I live. This personally impacts me and my diabetes story, so it is easy for me to get involved with JDRF’s Access for All campaign by talking to the Ontario government officials about why CGMs should be provincially funded. The trick to personalizing your advocacy is choosing a couple of key aspects of T1D to focus on and making sure those aspects are ones that are close to your heart.

A final way to make sure your advocacy is effective and impactful is to make sure you are advocating in a way that lets you stay mostly in your comfort zone – advocacy is personal to you, NDAM is personal to you, and T1D is personal to you. There is no one right way to get loud about T1D. It can be contacting your local government official to talk about T1D, posting on social media about T1D, or talking to your family and friends about T1D.

Whatever you do to mark this National Diabetes Awareness Month, however you go about your advocacy, and wherever you are in your T1D journey, JDRF is right here with you!

Anne Pettigrew, JDRF Volunteer and Advocate

Diagnosed two weeks shy of her 12th birthday.

Interested in becoming a JDRF advocate like Anne? Sign up here.

Thank you – everyone.

The Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF took place on October 7, 2021. For the second straight year, the Ride was a virtual event that offered a fun corporate team building experience all with the goal of turning type 1 diabetes (T1D) into type none. 

735 teams from more than 160 Canadian companies joined us to Spin, Sweat or Stretch throughout the day. 

The Spin session was taught by Spin Co. in English and French, Sweat session taught by F45 Yorkville for English, F45 Griffintown for French, and the Stretch session taught by Mula Yoga in English and Luna Yoga in French. We thank them so much for giving us their time and expertise and providing our participants with gym quality workouts they could do from the safety of their home. 

JDRF is thrilled to announce that over $1.65 million and counting has been raised at this year’s Ride to support T1D research. By participating in the Ride, 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 Ride a success, allowing us to raise much-needed funds for T1D research. With their support, we were also able to offer an incredible day of high energy workouts and music, showcase inspirational stories through video and speakers, and provide more resources for T1D families.  

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.

And if you missed joining us on October 7, the virtual Ride environment remains open until December 15 with Spin, Sweat and Stretch sessions available “on demand” and sponsor booths are still open for participants to explore, download content or connect with by dropping their virtual business card. 

Link to the ecosystem: 

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

JDRF launches new mental health strategy to support Canadians with type 1 diabetes

For the 300,000 Canadians living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), each day brings challenges – challenges that many others don’t understand. People living with T1D must follow a strict lifelong treatment plan that includes constant blood sugar monitoring, counting carbohydrates and taking insulin multiple times a day to stay alive. Due to this heavy burden of self-management and other factors such a social stigma, people living with type 1 diabetes are more likely to experience mental health challenges than their peers without T1D.

However, there are currently many gaps in knowledge, the healthcare system, and community support that mean this critical aspect of diabetes management is often overlooked. This is why JDRF Canada is pleased to announce that it has launched a $2 million fundraising campaign exclusively to support of the development of its first mental health strategy.

2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin in Canada. Earlier this year, in honour of this anniversary, JDRF Canada, the largest charitable funder of T1D research in Canada, launched its $100M Campaign to Accelerate to build upon a long legacy of outstanding Canadian diabetes research, accelerating towards cures and improving the lives of those living with T1D. The Campaign takes a six pillar approach towards aggressively funding research into cures, while also helping people with T1D live healthier lives now – and given the importance of mental health in T1D, it is the focus of one of the Campaign’s pillars.

T1D never takes a day off, and constant and continual management coupled with worries about diabetes-related complications can take a toll on mental and emotional health. Compared to those without the condition, those with diabetes are more likely to experience depression or develop an eating disorder,1-3 and one in five youth with T1D suffer from anxiety.4

Why we are launching a Mental Health Strategy

“I’m okay, but I’m not happy. We’ve figured things out – mostly – after ten long years. Diabetes takes a lot out of me, emotionally and physically, and gets in my way every single day. I’ve cried a lot, and I’ve gotten frustrated, and sad, and angry. Diabetes takes up a lot of my emotional bandwidth and I’m tired of it…Diabetes makes me feel inadequate, but I’m doing my best.” 

Maryna Ell, a young adult who lives with T1D

Despite mental health being a crucial component of holistic diabetes management, it is often overlooked in diabetes care. Routine diabetes appointments frequently focus on the urgent aspects of diabetes care such as glucose-management and lack time to address emotional wellbeing and mental health. On top of this, there are only a handful of mental health care providers in Canada who specialize in the needs of the diabetes community.

There is currently no standard pathway for identification, screening and referral of mental health concerns for people with T1D. Finally, research in the area of mental health and T1D is woefully under-funded.

“Mental health challenges together represent one of the most pervasive health issues affecting Canadians today. When you add a chronic condition like T1D, feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are often amplified, which can negatively affect physical health. With a clear indication of the mental health strain this disease has on people living with T1D and the obvious gaps in care, it’s time to take action and that’s why we are raising $2M and launching our first mental health strategy.”

Dr. Sarah Linklater, Chief Scientific Officer of JDRF Canada

Our plans to address the need 

“Mental health needs to be a larger part of care, especially for teens with diabetes. There is so much pressure socially, academically and hormonally and it’s hard to find anyone who understands the difficulty of managing diabetes on top of all of that.”

Jenna, JDRF Youth Ambassador, diagnosed with T1D at age 12

The vision of JDRF Canada’s Mental Health Strategy is to expand and create new avenues for children, youth, and adults with diabetes to access psychosocial health support and mental health services, ultimately improving quality of life and health outcomes.

The Strategy will involve multiple initiatives that focus in three main areas: funding research on mental health and T1D, informing and educating health care providers, and developing new programs to support the T1D community. Several initiatives, including research funding opportunities and development of a new virtual training program about diabetes for registered Canadian mental health providers, are already in progress.

“I started providing psychological services to those living with diabetes in 1985. At that time, I was amongst only a few Canadian mental health providers with an expertise in diabetes. Thirty-five years later almost nothing has changed. Most people living with diabetes experience psychosocial challenges that negatively impact their health and quality of life. Psychosocial issues are amongst the biggest care gap in diabetes management.”

Dr. Michael Vallis, registered psychologist and Associate Professor, Family Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

With the help of donors and our initial partners including Brain Canada, BD, iA Financial Group, Canucks for Kids and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, JDRF is well-positioned to take the lead to address gaps in care and tackle one of the most significant health issues facing Canadians with diabetes.

With further support from donors and partners, JDRF can help to provide a unified approach to helping families across Canada overcome challenges and cope with T1D.

Facts and figures

People living with T1D are more likely to experience mental health disorders compared with their peers without T1D:

  • The prevalence of depression is 3 times higher in people with T1D than people without diabetes, with women experiencing higher rates than men.1
  • Teenage girls with T1D are 2.4 times more likely to develop an eating disorder, and over 30% of women with T1D have been reported to restrict insulin to control weight.2,3
  • One in five youth with T1D experience anxiety.4
  • Half of adults with T1D experience “diabetes distress”, a clinical term to describe the powerlessness, stress, guilt, relentless worry and denial that comes with living with diabetes and the burden of self-management.5
  • Mental health issues in people with diabetes are correlated with worse outcomes, including worse glycemic control,6-9 more frequent and severe hypoglycemia,10 and more frequent diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA),6 increased frequency of diabetes complications.11


To learn more about partnering with JDRF Canada and get more details about our Mental Health Strategy, or to share your story about the impact of T1D on your psychosocial health and emotional wellbeing, please contact us at mentalhealthstrategy@jdrf.ca


1) Roy T and Lloyd CE. Epidemiology of depression and diabetes: a systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2012. 142 Suppl: S8-21.

2) Goebel-Fabbri, A. Diabetes and Eating Disorders. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2008. May; 2: 530–532.

3) Hanlan ME et al. Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating in Type 1 Diabetes: Prevalence, Screening, and Treatment Options. Curr Diab Rep. 2013. Sep 12:10.1007/s11892-013-0418-4.

4) Herzer M and Hood KK. Anxiety Symptoms in Adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes: Association with Blood Glucose Monitoring and Glycemic Control. J Pediatric Psychol. 2010. May; 35: 415–425.

5) Vallis M et al. Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs Second Study (DAWN2): Understanding Diabetes-Related Psychosocial Outcomes for Canadians with Diabetes. Can J Diabetes. 2016. Jun; 40:bv234-41.

6) Plener PL et al. Depression, metabolic control, and antidepressant medication in young patients with type 1 diabetes. Pediatric Diabetes 2015; 16: 58–66.

7) Corathers SD et al. Improving depression screening for adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Pediatrics. 2013. 132:e1395-402.

8) Lustman PJ et al. Depression and poor glycemic control: a meta-analytic review of the literature. Diabetes Care 2000. 23:934–942.

9) Strandberg RB et al. Longitudinal relationship between diabetes-specific emotional distress and follow-up HbA1c in adults with Type 1 diabetes mellitus. Diabetic Medicine. 2015. 32: 1304-10.

10) Katon WJ et al. Association of depression with increased risk of severe hypoglycemic episodes in patients with diabetes. Annals of Family Medicine. 2013. 11: 245-50.

11) de Groot M et al. Association of depression and diabetes complications: a meta-analysis. Psychosomatic Medicine 2001. 63: 619–630.

Back to School and Hypoglycemia

Starting a new grade, new school or beginning university can be very stressful even without having diabetes, particularly during the COVID pandemic.  Many students went to school virtually last year so this autumn may be the first time going to school in person in over a year. 

No matter the grade, getting back into the school routine requires a lot of preparation and planning.  It is always good to have a plan that includes emergency numbers along with insulin plan info, and how to treat low and high blood sugar levels. 

In a perfect world, all school teachers and staff would understand how to manage T1D. Since this isn’t always the case, communication is key.  It is important to educate teachers on T1D before school begins.  Providing information to the school and classmates on T1D management, especially recognizing the signs of hypoglycemia, will help kids feel comfortable returning to school and importantly will keep them safe and healthy, no matter what the school day brings.

Here’s some information on causes and signs of hypoglycemia.

Low blood sugar can be caused by1:

  • Changes to eating patterns such as skipping or delaying meals
  • More exercise or activity than usual, or exercising for a long time without eating a snack or adjusting insulin before exercise
  • Too much insulin or a change in the time taking insulin
  • Stress (presentations, tests, exams, etc.)
What are the symptoms chart

It is important always to BE PREPARED!

In case blood sugar levels fall below 4 mmol/L, school staff should be provided in advance with fast-acting glucose (e.g. Dex4 tablets, gels, and liquids).  If teachers notice a difference in behaviour related to the signs of low blood sugar or children feel warning signs of hypoglycemia, blood glucose should be checked immediately and treat low blood sugar promptly if needed. If a blood glucose meter is not available but low blood sugar is suspected, treat right away.

Treatment options include1:

Afterwards, wait 15 minutes, then check blood sugar again. If blood sugar cannot be tested, monitor the child closely to ensure symptoms of hypoglycemia improve. 

As low blood sugar can happen at anytime, it is important to be prepared.  Dex4 Glucose products help raise glucose levels FAST. 

Dex4 Glucose products are:

  • Fast-acting
  • Pre-measured so you know exactly how much glucose you are consuming
  • Fat-Free
  • Caffeine, gluten, cholesterol free
  • Great-tasting flavours

Additional Resources:

The Diabetes Hope Foundation supports mentorship programs for youth.  Buddy systems are available, for more information visit www.diabeteshopefoundation.com/mentor-biographies

1 Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee. Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada. Can J Diabetes 2013;37(suppl 1):S1-S212.


Information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

UBC team works to uncover new cell therapies that may one day lead to a cure for type 1 diabetes


JDRF Canada renews grant for UBC team identifying potential cell therapies for islet cell regeneration

JDRF is the leading charitable funder of research into type 1 diabetes in Canada, with a focus on research that will help improve lives today, and lead to disease prevention and cures


JDRF Canada is pleased to announce continued support for University of British Columbia Researcher Dr. Bruce Verchere, the head of the Diabetes Research Program at the Child & Family Research Institute. Verchere and his team are exploring ways to regenerate the pancreatic insulin-producing beta cells that are subject to immune attack in type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Verchere’s lab investigates how certain types of white blood cells known as macrophages might be involved in activating the immune system. Macrophages are often called the ‘garbage eaters’ of the body, as they eat dead cells and bacteria in order to remove them safely. Research has also shown that these macrophages are involved in tissue repair and wound healing. By drawing on this knowledge, Verchere plans to see whether macrophages can produce proteins that will stimulate the production of new beta cells or even improve the function of existing beta cells. 

JDRF’s support will allow Verchere and his team to study how the islet macrophages respond to the death of neighboring insulin-producing beta cells. When faced with stressful situations, macrophages have the potential to release proteins that can regenerate beta cells. The team will closely examine the genes and proteins that are produced in response to the stress of the beta-cell death. By understanding the new genes and proteins made by islet macrophages under these conditions the team hopes to identify new therapeutic pathways to stimulate beta cell regeneration – and uncover new avenues to cure T1D.

The team will stress human islets in the lab and identify the genes that are subsequently expressed in islet macrophages. The goal of this simulated stress will be to see which of the produced proteins can stimulate new beta cell formation or enhance beta cell function.  Think of the initial beta-cell death as a trigger. This trigger then activates the neighboring islet macrophage to express, or turn on, specific genes. The macrophage machinery then produces, or pumps out, new proteins that can stimulate the production of new beta cells.

The 2-year $300,000 USD JDRF grant will support the team as they aim to identify a list of genes that can potentially stimulate human beta-cell regeneration. The team will also test out some of the lead candidate proteins that are produced by these genes. Ultimately the researchers plan to identify a list of proteins that can one day be used to develop new beta-cell therapies in T1D.

Thank you to our donors for supporting JDRF Canada. It is because of your generosity that JDRF can fund this exciting work and help us get closer to our goal of turning type one into type none.

Can we eliminate carb counting for people with type 1 diabetes?

Carb Counting

Research is exploring whether an insulin + pramlintide closed-loop system eliminate carbohydrate counting for people living with T1D.

JDRF is the leading charitable funder of research into type 1 diabetes in Canada, with a focus on research that will help improve lives today, and lead to disease prevention and cures.


JDRF Canada is pleased to continue supporting research led by McGill scientist Dr. Ahmad Haidar. Haidar and his team are looking at ways to improve the quality of life of people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) using a novel insulin-plus-pramlintide artificial pancreas that may alleviate the need for carbohydrate counting.

Carbohydrate counting is the process of counting the number of carbohydrates in a meal – something that people living with T1D need to do every time they eat in order to be able to calculate the appropriate and safe amount of insulin needed for blood sugar control. Carbohydrate counting can however become burdensome as it requires an extensive knowledge base and detailed calculations, made multiple times a day. Haidar and his team aim to develop an automated insulin delivery system that can minimize this burden for people living with the disease.

A closed-loop system, or “artificial pancreas”, automates the delivery of insulin based on the blood sugar levels obtained from continuous glucose monitors. Evidence shows that individuals using a closed-loop system are often less burdened by the decision-making process of daily insulin management and can benefit from improved glucose control, fewer hypoglycemic episodes, and a better quality of life.

Haidar and his research team plan to study a closed-loop system that delivers both insulin and pramlintide. Pramlintide is a medication that resembles a natural hormone produced by healthy beta cells called amylin, which slows the movement of food through the stomach. This hormone can blunt the extent to which sugars are broken down, allowing for a meal to less severely elevate blood sugar levels. The team’s previous work showed that such a system was safe and effective in people with T1D. Now, they want to explore whether a combination of a fast-acting insulin and pramlintide can eliminate the need for carbohydrate counting without compromising glycemic control.

Haidar will examine how this closed-loop system will affect target blood sugar levels in adults and adolescents, as well as these individuals’ quality of life, in a randomized controlled trial. The study will be two weeks long, will take place outside of a clinic setting, and will compare a system that delivers both insulin and pramlintide versus a system that delivers insulin on its own. The study will also compare traditional carbohydrate counting techniques against a simple meal announcement notification.

JDRF is pleased to support two more years of Haidar’s ongoing work with a $760,000 USD grant in this important area of diabetes management, and thanks its donors for their continued support in T1D research.

Skin cells may be the key to unlocking better treatment for people with type 1 diabetes


JDRF renews grant support for study examining stem cell transplants for diabetes

JDRF is the leading charitable funder of research into type 1 diabetes in Canada, with a focus on research that will help improve lives today, and lead to disease prevention and cures.

As part of this commitment, JDRF is renewing its support of an important study led by the University of Toronto’s Medicine by Design bioengineering department. Executive director Dr. Michael Sefton is being awarded almost $430,000 USD to study how skin cells may play a key role in establishing an environment that is suitable for successful stem cell transplants for people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Sefton and his team are exploring new ways for insulin-producing cells to be transplanted into people living with T1D. Their research examines ways to engineer tissues so that transplanted insulin-producing cells are not rejected by the immune response. In clinical islet transplantation, insulin-producing cells are transplanted into the liver of people living with T1D. In this scenario, though, the immune system often acts up and makes the liver a hostile environment for the transplanted cells.

Even with the use of immunosuppressive drugs, the transplanted insulin-producing cells can stop working, and the people need to return to insulin therapy. The success of the transplant can therefore be short lived.

Sefton’s lab is exploring ways to use the skin, instead of the liver, as a transplant site. By using a more accessible site the hope is that the transplanted cells can receive nutrients from blood vessels, and ultimately survive and produce insulin when blood sugar levels are elevated. In addition, the team is investigating ways to prevent rejection of the transplanted cells that will not require use of conventional immunosuppressive drugs, which can have serious side effects.

The JDRF grant to Dr. Sefton will be pivotal in supporting his team as they continue to explore ways to create an environment that supports transplantation of insulin-producing cells. This renewed funding will support the team as they seek to answer the following important questions:

  1. Can blood vessels be created so that the skin has a better supply of nutrients for the transplanted cells to survive? Insulin producing cells that have access to blood vessels after transplant can be healthier and better able to produce insulin for longer periods of time. Having previously studied a material containing methacrylic acid (MAA) that can stimulate creation of new blood vessels, Sefton’s lab will continue to understand how MAA can support the insulin-producing cells’ transplant.
  2. Are there ways for the immune system of the person with T1D to not to reject the new transplanted cells? The team will explore whether they can minimize the immune response by delivering special immune cells found in the skin, known as dendritic cells, so that the transplanted cells are recognized by the immune system and not targeted as being foreign, and rejected. Using the natural ability of the immune system to protect, rather than reject, the transplanted cells will be pivotal in helping the transplanted therapy have potential clinical impact.

Medicine by Design, where Dr. Sefton’s lab is located, was founded in 2015, thanks in part to a $114-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. Focused on regenerative medicine, Medicine by Design-funded researchers use engineering, mathematics, medicine and physical and life sciences to develop new therapies for diseases such as stroke, heart failure, and diabetes.

JDRF is excited to once again fund this innovative work and we look forward to sharing research updates as they become available. Thank you to our donors for supporting this important work.

JDRF ambassador Sébastien Sasseville rides a bicycle across Canada in support of Access For All

On June 28th, 2021 endurance athlete and JDRF ambassador Sébastien Sasseville took on his greatest challenge yet. A commitment to ride a bicycle across Canada in support of universal access to diabetes devices for all Canadians living with the disease.

Sébastien was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2002. He vowed that T1D would never keep him from living life to the fullest, and today his story is a testament to how challenges can be turned into opportunities. These opportunities have included running across Canada, climbing Mt Everest and participating in a number of the world’s hardest endurance races.

This journey was for a cause extremely close to Sebastien’s heart.

“I’ve been using an insulin pump and CGM system for years and it’s had a tremendous impact on my life and diabetes management – these devices are life changing, nothing short of that. They enable me to do what I do,” says Sébastien.

“When I think about not everyone with diabetes having access to the device of their choice, it’s heartbreaking and really – it’s not fair – nobody chooses T1D. These tools that I use today were the things I was dreaming about when I first diagnosed. A closed loop hybrid was like something out of a sci fi movie 20 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine it – and now it’s here today, and I use it. And I want to help JDRF with their advocacy work to ensure that everyone with T1D who could benefit from this technology can have access to them.

The provincial governments of Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia recently announced they will join Yukon in offering public coverage of CGM systems under provincial or territorial health plans. In addition, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba have also recently announced plans for funding based on their 2021 budget platforms.

“These are significant announcements impacting the more than 300,000 children and adults living with type 1 diabetes in Canada, but the coverage for both insulin pumps and for advanced glucose monitoring systems varies greatly depending on where you live in Canada, and even by age,” said Dave Prowten, President and CEO of JDRF Canada.

“We applaud Sébastien’s desire to bring attention for the need for equitable access to life-changing technology for all Canadians living with type 1 diabetes, and we encourage people to support Access For All by sending a letter to their provincial or territorial representative at jdrf.ca/accessforall.

Sébastien also wanted to highlight how hard diabetes management is even with these devices. That it makes life easier, but not easy. Even with advanced technology, there is still a lot of work involved with day-to-day management. He worries that people may see the athletic endurance feats he accomplishes without realizing how much effort is involved in managing his T1D.

I truly am not a natural athlete – my journey is not about winning medals. I’ve never won anything or even been on the podium. My message is really about ‘hey, this is not easy, there are great tools available, and they should be available to all’ – and then figuring out what works for you to make tomorrow a little bit better than today. My diabetes management is not perfect – I have highs and lows like everyone. I manage as well as I can with the exercise – I am proud that I can say I can keep it under control with years of experience and experimentation. But it’s not any easier for me. It’s not easy for anyone and that’s why it’s so important that everyone has access to the best tools for their own management.”

“This one was so much harder. I’ve never suffered this much. Including Everest. This was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done, because of the intention of going fast. The real story was can this be done in under two weeks. What happens when you ride 400 km a day with no days off and almost no recovery time. From a diabetes management perspective, everything was new. It was trial and error, as the training doesn’t always translate to real life. The high temps (45 degrees Celsius), the difficult conditions; these were things I did not expect.”

Sébastien finished his journey in just over two weeks and was followed by a documentary crew who will be putting together a video to be released later in the summer.

“I feel I learned through the challenges, and it’s made me even more resolute to continue to use my platform to help others living with diabetes,” he says.

As for raising awareness for Access For All, Sebastien says, “I think I helped, but credit to the employees and advocates – just everyone at JDRF who has been advocating for years. These campaigns are successful over years by making sustained noise over time to get into the ears of the right people. I know we made a lot of noise on social media. I hope I helped this cause.”

Sebastien without a doubt contributed and we could not be more grateful. JDRF thanks Sebastien, his team and his sponsors Dexcom Canada and Tandem Diabetes Care for his incredible efforts and achievement and commitment to ensuring access to diabetes devices to any Canadian who could benefit from it.

Follow his journeys at: instagram.com/sebinspires

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