Immune Therapy Preserves Beta Cell Function in Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes

Insulin, administered either by pump or multiple daily injection, remains the only available treatment for type 1 diabetes (T1D). JDRF is aiming to change that and move beyond insulin by accelerating the development of medicines that prevent, delay, or reverse T1D by targeting the autoimmune response, beta cells, or both. Supporting studies that explore how drugs may preserve beta cell function is key to our disease-modifying therapies portfolio.

In a JDRF-funded clinical trial, published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine , Thomas Kay, M.B.B.S., Helen Thomas, Ph.D., and others demonstrated that baricitinib—a small molecule that blocks Janus Kinase, which is critical to signaling pathways within both immune cells and beta cells in T1D—preserved beta cell function in the disease.

The BANDIT study investigated the use of baricitinib, a treatment already approved by Health Canada for other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, in newly diagnosed T1D individuals. This JDRF-funded study was funded by JDRF and JDRF Australia and conducted at St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research in Australia. The study was conducted after years of research by Thomas Kay and others, as well as important work by JDRF advocating for Eli Lilly to provide the baricitinib for the study.

Study Overview

  • Participants were between 10 and 30 years old and began taking baricitinib within 100 days of diagnosis
  • Participants either received baricitinib or a placebo drug
  • The study ran for 48 weeks, and results were analyzed at 12, 24, 36 and 48 weeks
  • The primary outcome was average C-peptide (a measure of how much insulin is still being made by a person’s own beta cells) following a standard meal at week 48
  • Secondary outcomes were HbA1c (average glucose level over a 2–3-month period), insulin use, and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) measures


In 60 newly diagnosed children and young adults, baricitinib:

  • Preserved insulin production, as estimated by C-peptide
  • Improved blood-glucose variability (blood glucose levels were more stable) and time-in-range (the percentage of your day within your set blood glucose targets), using a CGM
  • Decreased the requirement for external insulin
  • Was well-tolerated by the participants

The effect of baricitinib was achieved using a single daily oral tablet, and it’s the first immunotherapy trial to suggest a benefit on CGM measures. (Verapamil, a once-a-day tablet approved for blood pressure management , also preserved beta cell function, but without improvement in CGM measures or insulin requirement.)

What comes next?

Currently, baricitinib is approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in adults in Canada. It is not however a Health Canada approved therapy for people with T1D. JDRF has multiple lines of inquiry to make sure that this and other disease-modifying drugs get to the hands of people with T1D . There are several clinical trials that JDRF is exploring to see if baricitinib can be effective if used in conjunction with other therapies, such as Tzield™ (teplizumab-mzwv) or verapamil.

What does this mean for people with T1D?

These promising results show that this drug can extend the honeymoon period (the phase in early type 1 diabetes development where the body is still producing some of its own insulin), but more studies are needed before it can become available to the T1D community. As this drug is already approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Canada, the path to its potential use in T1D may be more rapid. Studies that explore the use of disease-modifying drugs, such as baricitinib or ustekinumab, in another JDRF-funded trial currently recruiting in Canada, are key to helping JDRF address the autoimmunity behind T1D.

This treatment is not currently available in Canada for people with T1D, but JDRF Canada will share further updates and results as they become available.

JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC marks two years of innovation in type 1 diabetes cure research

On November 2nd 2023, the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC held its second annual meeting to review research progress, celebrate advances, brainstorm challenges, map out next steps, and exchange knowledge about the lived experience of T1D – all with a view to accelerate the path towards a cure for T1D via the Centre’s research program.

Year 2 at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC has seen progress across all areas of the T1D research program, as well as expansion of its training program and establishment of a T1D Lived Experience Advisory Group.

“It was wonderful to come together and celebrate another strong year of progress on all three JDRF Centre of Excellence theme areas,” said Jim Johnson, Professor, Cellular & Physiological Sciences and Surgery, University of British Columbia. “I am continually inspired by the dedication and brilliance of our students and fellows who continue to drive breakthroughs. We are all, in turn, inspired by our partners with lived experience and thank them for their participation.”

Below are a few highlights shared at the annual event:

Theme 1: Building better beta cells for islet replacement therapy, led by Dr. Francis Lynn

The team has developed new tools that enable testing specific genes for their impact on beta cell function and survival. Using these tests, they now aim to identify genes that make stem cell derived beta cells stronger and better insulin producing cells eligible for transplantation purposes. The team is also gaining new insight into the importance of including stem cell-derived alpha cells in islet replacement products along with stem cell-derived beta cells. In healthy islets, alpha cells release the hormone glucagon, which helps to product individuals from experiencing hypoglycemia.

Theme 2: Protecting insulin-producing beta cells from immune attack, led by Dr. Megan Levings

Over the last year the team has made substantial advances in developing new, immunomodulatory products for prevention and treatment of T1D. One candidate product is being explored for patent protection. The other, a lipid nanoparticle (LNP)-based approach being studied in partnership with UBC spin-off Integrated Nanotherapeutics, found that treatment of animals prone to T1D stopped the majority of animals from developing the disease. Next, the team will test this therapy in animals with pre-existing T1D for its potential to reverse disease. 

Theme 3: Targeting and monitoring beta cell stress, led by Dr. Jim Johnson

The team is expanding our understanding of EIF2A, a protein that protects beta cells from dying. Using an artificial intelligence-based approach, the team has mapped the interactions between EIF2A and other proteins to identify protein combinations that may further increase the protection of beta cells. The team also discovered that an enzyme called PC1/3 involved in processing insulin inside beta cells appears to be defective in people with T1D. This discovery increases our understanding of beta cell dysfunction in T1D and increases the chance that we can identify new indicators of beta cell health, which potentially can be used to monitor individual responses to T1D treatments.

Clinical trials

Dr. Meiying Zhuang, Transplant Endocrinology Fellow at UBC affiliated with the Centre’s clinical core presented the latest data and future plans for islet replacement trials taking place in Vancouver. As the Centre’s work progresses, the Clinical Core will help to facilitate translation of discovery research being carried out in Themes 1-3 to clinical testing. Dr. Zhuang’s perspectives on the translation of research from bench to bedside reinforced the importance of the Centre’s unique opportunity for collaboration and prompted interesting discussions amongst attendees.

Seed grants

The Centre also celebrated the success of the seed grant competition with updates from the first grantees and an announcement of Year 2’s funded projects. Seed grants provide funding for pilot studies aimed at developing novel ideas aligned with the Centre’s goals, and are designed to expand the scope of the Centre’s research program and bring new investigators into the collaborative research team

Dr. Hongshen Ma (Professor, Mechanical Engineering, UBC) used their 2022 seed grant funding to collaborate with Theme 1 in order to engineer a new system for measuring beta cell function and insulin production at the single-cell level. This new tool allows the teams to more accurately study and compare the function of stem cellderived beta cells to donor islets, providing insights to the Theme 1 team as they develop improved products for islet replacement therapy. The other 2022 seed grant awardee, Dr. Dan Luciani (Professor, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, UBC) is using their funding to explore the potential of a protein called TFEB  to protect from T1D in an animal model.

Dr. Jan Dutz and team were awarded a 2023 seed grant to test whether a modified version of methotrextate – a drug that has long been used for treatment of other immune diseases – may hold promise in T1D. The second 2023 seed grant was awarded to Dr. Marc Horwitz and team to investigate how the complex relationship between viruses and the gut microbiome can influence susceptibility to T1D, potentially shedding light on new avenues to T1D prevention or treatment.

Lived Experience Advisory Group

In 2023, the Centre established the T1D Lived Experience Advisory Group consisting of people with lived experiences of T1D from outside of the research teams. The Advisory Group will integrate the voices of people with lived experience of T1D into the Centre to ensure their interests and concerns are heard and translated into research aims and knowledge mobilization activities.

The Advisory Group and the Centre’s trainee committee co-organized a Knowledge Exchange Workshop during the annual meeting, which was a highlight from last year and equally impactful in year 2. Investigators and trainees from the Centre met with people with lived experience of T1D to share perspectives on what it means to live with T1D, what a cure would mean, and how researchers and the T1D community can better work together to accelerate research.

“Sharing my T1D experiences at the roundtable today was meaningful to me” said Doug Bourne, a member of the Centre’s T1D Lived Experience Advisory Group. “I sincerely pass along my gratitude to all those whose efforts, research and contributions help to make life better, easier and more manageable for people with diabetes. Without this work our lives would be much different.”

Developing the next generation of T1D researchers

The JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC team includes several outstanding trainees, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. The collaborative nature of the Centre offers trainees an ideal environment to develop as researchers, communicators, and team members ready to become the next generation of experts.

A Trainee Committee was created in year 2 to organize events and develop workshops relevant to Centre trainees. During year 2, trainees participated in multiple workshops and many travelled to Michigan, USA, for an event involving all international JDRF Centre of Excellence trainees in May, 2023. During the second annual meeting in Vancouver, the trainee committee’s accomplishments were celebrated and capped off with a Graphical Abstract Competition. During this session, 10 trainees from Centre labs presented a 3-minute summary of their research to a lay audience with only a single slide for support, in a competition judged by people with lived experience of T1D, as well as researchers and JDRF staff in attendance.

During the annual meeting, the Centre also took the opportunity to celebrate and welcome the new J. Andrew McKee Postdoctoral Fellow, funded by JDRF and Canada’s Stem Cell Network: Dr. Sing-Young Chen. Learn more about Dr. Chen on our blog.

Looking ahead

As the Centre’s research program advances, the team is focused on continuing to expand multidisciplinary training opportunities for trainees, incorporating innovative new approaches and projects, and mapping out the path to clinical translation or commercialization for the different therapies and technologies being studied. In Year 3, the Centre’s clinical core will become more active, and engagement with the Type 1 Diabetes Lived Experience Advisory Group will guide evolution of the research program and external communications about the Centre’s progress.

“It was fantastic to share news of progress at this second annual meeting: discoveries made, milestones met, results published, trainees excelling, new collaborations forged,” said Sarah Linklater, Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF Canada. “But what is most exciting is the community that is growing around this initiative, and how this cutting-edge research is increasingly connecting with and being guided by the lived experience of T1D. This is the way forward.”

Future plans for the Centre are focused on the overall goal of bringing new cure therapies to the clinical testing stage. Read more about the Centre here or at UBC’s new dedicated webpage at  

To learn more about supporting the Centre of Excellence, please visit:

New Trial Shows Benefits of Hybrid Closed Loop in Pregnancy  

A JDRF UK-supported trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the 2023 European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference demonstrated that hybrid closed loop technology helps pregnant individuals better manage their blood glucose compared to traditional insulin pumps or multiple daily injections.  

Authors say that hybrid closed-loop technology should be offered to all pregnant people with type 1 diabetes.

How does type 1 diabetes (T1D) affect pregnancy?

Despite technological advances in monitoring blood glucose and delivering insulin, altered eating behaviours and hormonal changes during pregnancy mean that most pregnant individuals with T1D struggle to reach the recommended blood glucose levels, which increases complications for both the baby and pregnant individual.

These complications can include premature birth, need for intensive care after birth, and being too large at birth, which increases the lifelong risk of overweight and obesity. Low blood glucose, excess weight gain, and high blood pressure during pregnancy are common amongst pregnant individuals with T1D.

What did the study look at?

In the study, researchers trialed a hybrid closed-loop system also known as the artificial pancreas. They compared this technology with traditional continuous glucose monitoring and insulin systems, where pregnant individuals supported by specialist diabetes maternity teams make multiple daily decisions about insulin doses.

The study involved 124 pregnant individuals with T1D aged 18-45 years who managed their condition with daily insulin therapy. They took part for approximately 24 weeks (from 10-12 weeks gestation until the end of pregnancy). The study took place in nine NHS hospitals in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

What did the study demonstrate?

Using the hybrid closed-loop technology helped to substantially reduce maternal blood glucosethroughout pregnancy.

Compared to traditional insulin therapy methods, the pregnant individuals who used the hybrid closed-loop technology spent more time in the target range for pregnancy blood glucose levels (68% vs 56% of time in range – equivalent to an additional 2.5-3 hours every day throughout pregnancy).

The technology was safely initiated during the first trimester, which is a crucially important time for fetal development. The blood glucose levels improved consistently in the hybrid closed-loop users, regardless of their previous blood glucose levels or previous method of insulin therapy.

These improvements were achieved without additional hypoglycemic episodes and without additional insulin. The participants using the technology also gained 3.5 kg less weight and were less likely to have blood pressure complications during pregnancy.

Importantly, the pregnant participants using the technology also had fewer prenatal clinic appointments, and fewer out-of-hours calls with maternity clinic teams, suggesting that this technology could also be time-saving for pregnant individuals and for stretched maternity services.

The authors of the study say that, as a result of these findings, this type of technology should now be offered to all pregnant individuals with T1D to help improve maternal blood glucose management.

What do the researchers say?

“For a long time, there has been limited progress in improving blood sugars for women with type 1 diabetes, so we’re really excited that our study offers a new option to help pregnant women manage their diabetes,” says lead author, Professor Helen Murphy of the University of East Anglia.

“Previous studies have confirmed that every extra hour spent in the blood sugar target range reduces the risks of premature birth, being too large at birth and need for admission to neonatal intensive care unit. This technology will allow more women to have safer, healthier, more enjoyable pregnancies, with potential for lifelong benefits for their babies.

What does this mean for Canadians with T1D?

There is currently no Canadian recommendation regarding the use of hybrid closed-loop systems during pregnancy. Since 2021, the Diabetes Canada Clinical Practice Guidelines have recommended that “In pregnant people with type 1 diabetes, real-time CGM should be used to increase time-in-range and reduce the risk of overweight infants, neonatal hypoglycemia and intensive care admissions >24 hours.”

In Canada, there are currently two approved options for hybrid closed-loop systems (Medtronic Minimed 770 / 780G or Tandem t:slim X2 + Dexcom G6 with Control-IQ software). JDRF Canada regularly monitors Health Canada approvals for diabetes technology and will continue to review further studies on diabetes technology in pregnancy, and provide updates based on their results.

New results from a clinical trial of once-weekly insulin

We are getting closer to the possibility of people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) needing to administer basal insulin only once a week instead of every single day, with Novo Nordisk announcing the latest results of its ONWARDS 6 clinical trial.

What was the clinical trial studying?

ONWARDS clinical trials, which have been ongoing for the past few years, have been separated into six trials. The first five trials were in people with type 2 diabetes – comparing the once-weekly insulin (called icodec) with a daily insulin, either insulin glargine (a long-acting modified form of medical insulin) or degludec (an ultralong-acting basal insulin analogue).

The latest trial, ONWARDS 6, compared the once-weekly insulin icodec to daily insulin degludec in people with T1D.

The results of ONWARDS 6 were presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference, and simultaneously published in The Lancet. ONWARDS 6 was a large-scale study of 582 adults with T1D comparing the basal insulins (weekly icodec vs daily degludec) in combination with fast-acting insulin aspart.

The study was primarily looking to determine if there was a difference in HbA1c (a blood glucose measurement), as well as time-in-range, diabetes treatment satisfaction, and number of severe hypoglycemic episodes.

The researchers found no difference in HbA1c or time-in-rangebetween the people who took icodec vs those who took degludec. The weekly icodec group did have more episodes of hypoglycemia compared to the daily degludec group, however, the numbers of these episodes were quite low overall (20 and 10 events per patient year for the icodec and degludec groups, respectively).

Moreover, both groups had improved scores on the Diabetes Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire, somewhat favouring the degludec group.  While we may have expected treatment satisfaction to be higher in the weekly icodec group, the increased scores are likely attributable to receiving additional treatment and medical attention as part of the trial, as well as the fact that both groups improved their HbA1c scores by an average of 0.5%.

What do the trial results mean for people with T1D?

While weekly insulin icodec was as effective as daily insulin degludec at reducing HbA1c in people with T1D, it did lead to a higher rate of hypoglycemic episodes – although the overall rate of hypoglycemia was very low for both groups.

These results provide important information about the safety and effectiveness of weekly insulin and will inform the next round of icodec clinical trials. JDRF Canada will continue to monitor the progress and provide updates when available.

JDRF is deeply saddened by the loss of one of its founding family members, Susan Gold-Reich, a remarkable individual whose dedication and passion changed the landscape of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in Canada

Susan’s journey began when her daughter, Amy, was diagnosed with T1D at a young age. Determined to make a difference, Susan, alongside four other families, embarked on a remarkable journey. They established the very first JDRF Chapter in Canada, located in Montreal, and commenced their tireless efforts to transform the landscape of T1D research.

Working from her family’s basement, Susan poured her heart and soul into the mission of raising awareness and helping to ensure essential funding for T1D research.

“Susan was a devoted mother and friend, who invested an immeasurable amount of time and energy into ensuring that T1D research received the support it desperately needed,” remarked Jimmy Garfinkle, a close friend, a co-founding family member, and an unwavering supporter of JDRF Canada. Susan’s tenacity and vision continue to be a source of inspiration for all who knew her. Her contributions to the cause have been invaluable.

We extend our deepest gratitude to Susan for her instrumental role in founding JDRF in Canada and contributing to a lasting research and advocacy legacy. Her dedication has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians affected by T1D.

As we remember Susan, let us celebrate the indelible mark she leaves on the fight against Type 1 Diabetes. /  Her tireless efforts have brought us closer to a world without T1D

Link to Obituary – Susan Gold-Reich – Funeral Information, Obituary, Condolences – Papermans & Sons, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Contributions in Susan’s memory may be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). 

Ross Chocolates is a proud supporter of diabetes research 

Ross Chocolates, a longtime corporate partner of JDRF Canada is generously providing a matching gift in honour of National Diabetes Awareness Month. All donations made throughout November will be matched by Ross Chocolates, up to a maximum of $20,000. 

JDRF Canada sent their CEO Stefano Urbani some questions regarding the inspiration behind their support of the diabetes community and commitment to diabetes research. 

JDRF Canada: Tell us a little bit about the history of Ross Chocolates. 

 In 1995, Bob Ross, the founder of Ross Chocolates and a devoted chocolate enthusiast, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Despite the dietary restrictions imposed by his condition, Bob was determined to continue to enjoy eating chocolate.  

At that time, the availability of no sugar added chocolate (sugar-free) was scarce, so many people with diabetes ate chocolate made with carob rather than cocoa. Carob chocolate lacks the smoothness, depth, and unique flavour of cocoa chocolate. Bob decided to create his own cocoa chocolate sweetened without sugar to feed his need for that real chocolate taste and embarked on a mission to craft high-quality chocolate without any added sugars.  

Starting in his kitchen, Bob meticulously experimented with combinations of cocoa beans, cocoa butter, and diabetes-safe sweeteners to create high-quality, tasty, diabetes-friendly milk and dark chocolate. By 1998, Ross Chocolates was offering consumers their No Sugar Added Chocolate bars, catering to people with diabetes and those seeking to eliminate sugar from their diet. 

The popularity of Ross Chocolates surged, with millions of bars sold across North America, Europe, and other continents.  

Today, Ross Chocolates remains committed to crafting the exceptional chocolate that Bob Ross pioneered. Staying true to their founder’s vision, Ross Chocolates continues to innovate and develop new No Sugar Added chocolate treats for those looking to eliminate or reduce their sugar consumption. In 2022, a research study at the University of British Columbia determined that Ross No Sugar Added Dark Chocolate has no noticeable effect on blood sugar levels in those with any type of diabetes ( 

JDRF Canada: What drove Ross Chocolates to make sugar-free chocolate safe for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes? 

Bob Ross’ story remains a driving force behind Ross Chocolates’ desire to provide people with diabetes safe alternatives to regular chocolate or sugar-free chocolate sweetened with alternatives that continue to minimally affect blood sugar levels. Our goal is focussed on creating the most delicious chocolate available that does not affect blood sugar levels at all (with our dark chocolate flavours) or as minimally as possible (with our milk chocolate flavours). 

With heightened consumer awareness about diabetes and carbohydrate intakes, there is a growing market demand for high-quality, sugar-free (no sugar added) chocolate treats. Health and wellness trends are also leading many to Ross Chocolates as they seek alternatives to high-sugar options.  

Ross stays at the forefront of both adhering to regulatory guidelines and utilizing technological advancements in alternative sweeteners as we create new products. Creating sugar-free chocolates using the latest research and availability of alternative sweeteners safe for people with diabetes to consume without requiring extra insulin is constantly occurring at Ross Chocolates. Ultimately, the food industry plays a pivotal role in promoting the well-being of individuals managing diabetes through the creation of safe and enjoyable sugar-free options. 

JDRF Canada: What does your support of JDRF Canada mean to you as a company? 

 Ross Chocolates is committed to supporting diabetes research by donating a portion of every sale to organizations like JDRF Canada. Our goal is to make a positive societal impact by helping to fund T1D research, which ultimately improves the lives of those living with T1D and ideally will lead to a world that is free from type 1 diabetes. 

Aligning with a reputable organization like JDRF enhances the Ross Chocolates brand image, demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility. Additionally, supporting JDRF provides opportunities for employees to engage in meaningful volunteer work, fostering a sense of community within the company. This, in turn, boosts employee morale and satisfaction.  

Supporting JDRF leads to valuable networking opportunities and collaborations with researchers, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups focused on diabetes. Ultimately, supporting JDRF is a meaningful way for us to contribute to a vital cause, positively impact the lives of individuals with T1D, and demonstrate our reputation as a socially responsible and community-oriented organization. 

JDRF Canada: Is there anything else you would like to share with the type 1 diabetes community. 

Over the years, Ross Chocolates has been able to help support diabetes research, with a portion of every sale going to diabetes research organizations. We are proud of our support of JDRF and the work that they do to help those living with T1D. We know life with T1D is not easy, and we hope to help by offering chocolate treats you can easily enjoy daily without worries of blood glucose levels rising, while supporting JDRF in its mission of finding cures for type 1 diabetes. 

To learn more about Ross Chocolates visit

JDRF’s Legal Sector Challenge: Taking Bold Steps to Accelerate Type 1 Diabetes Research

When we come together as a collective, we can accomplish great things.

A dedicated group of lawyers and law firms from across Canada rallied together this year to support JDRF’s Legal Sector Challenge, raising funds to help accelerate the pace of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Thanks to their bold commitment to the T1D community, JDRF will be able to allocate more dollars to research into cures and treatments to improve lives. We are beyond grateful to the philanthropic leaders who rose to the challenge of providing gifts.

Thank you to our generous donors who participated:

  • Andrew and Lisa Wiseman 
  • Anonymous donation
  • Brian Johnston
  • Christine Pound
  • Daniela Bassan
  • Dorsey & Whitney Foundation
  • Fasken
  • Fred Rubinoff
  • Goldman, Spring, Kichler & Sanders LLP
  • Grant Machum
  • Jeffrey and Shawna Citron
  • Jen Feron and Jim Murphy
  • John Currie
  • Larry Freeman
  • Leonard Baranek
  • Level Chan
  • Matthew Newell
  • Maurice Chiasson
  • Norton Rose Fulbright Canada
  • Sheldon Freeman
  • Susan Hayes
  • Todd Schindeler
  • William McCullough

Thank you to the legal sector volunteer leaders who championed the challenge:

  • Fred Rubinoff, Goodmans LLP
  • Rebecca Saturley, Stewart McKelvey
  • Dan Miller, Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Where the Challenge Began

In 2023, JDRF Canada volunteers Fred Rubinoff, Rebecca Saturley, and Dan Miller – all lawyers who have a personal connection to T1D – started the Legal Challenge to mobilize their industry, inspired by similar challenges in the commercial real estate and wealth management sectors. With personal connections to T1D, they are devoted to creating a world without this chronic disease, not only for their loved ones but all Canadians impacted by T1D.

Fred Rubinoff is passionate about changing the landscape of this debilitating disease for everyone living with T1D worldwide. Ever since his late wife Tracey, who lived with T1D for many years, sadly passed away in 2004 from diabetes-related complications, Fred has been driven to help accelerate life-saving treatments and potential cures for T1D.

“Tracey did not have access to the comprehensive diabetes care she needed throughout her adolescence – I don’t want any other family to have to endure that or such a loss. People with T1D need adequate support to help them cope with this life-long condition and hope that a cure is on the horizon. I want to press forward and unite to fund initiatives that help ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else and see an end to this disease for good.”

– Fred Rubinoff

Where the Dollars Go

All donations to the Legal Challenge will bolster JDRF’s Accelerator Fund, which allows JDRF to be nimble in our efforts to fund cure-based research while also improving lives today. The fund makes an immediate impact by supporting all areas of JDRF, including the greatest needs within the $100M Campaign to Accelerate.

Here are a few examples of what the Accelerator Fund supports:

  • Promising cure-based T1D research in Canada and across the globe
  • Training for mental health providers on how to best support clients living with T1D
  • Operational costs such as research and financial oversight, and revenue generation
  • Advocacy for better access and affordability to life-saving devices through Access for All

Advocacy is an area that hits home for Rebecca Saturley and her son, Oliver, diagnosed with T1D at age 9, who live in a province where advanced glucose monitors are not covered by provincial health plans, and people must pay out of pocket for these life-saving devices. Everyone deserves affordable access to technologies to help ease the burden of life with T1D.

Fred, Rebecca, and Dan hope the success of the Legal Sector Challenge will spark interest and inspire others to support the Accelerator Fund and help transform lives across Canada. Donor support helps make JDRF’s work possible – these investments continue the momentum in critical T1D cure research, advocacy, and innovative projects to improve the lives of people with T1D today and tomorrow. With research moving faster than ever, now is the time to champion a future without T1D.

Are you interested in learning more or starting a sector challenge of your own?

To find out how you can further engage with JDRF or give to the Accelerator Fund, contact Tammy Bucci, Director of Leadership Giving, at

The Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes was a great success!

One of Canada’s longest running and top fundraising events held Rides in Montréal, Toronto and Calgary, on October 5, 12 and 19, 2023 respectively, along with community ‘Ride Your Way’ rides taking place across the country this past month. For 38 years the Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF has been bringing together corporate executives and teams to move work aside and move for a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D).

T1D is an autoimmune condition impacting nearly 300,000 Canadians. The incidence of T1D in Canada is rising by 4.4% each year, higher than the global average of 3% – and we don’t know why. Funds raised from the Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF will accelerate the pace of the most promising research into cures and support programs that improve the lives of those living with the disease today.

More than 1175 teams and over 6200 fundraisers from more than 85 Canadian companies coast to coast participated in this high-energy event. Our Riders have secured almost 16,000 donations and have raised over $1.9 million and counting. We could not be more grateful for everyone’s efforts!

Together, corporate Canada made a difference for the close to 300,000 Canadians and the countless more who are affected by 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 spin workouts, highlight inspirational stories through both video and speakers, and ultimately get us closer to our goal for cures for type 1 diabetes.

Thank you also to our JDRF ambassadors Paloma Davarsi (Montréal), Karoline Cope (Toronto) and Luke McDonald and Chris Holmstead (Calgary) who took time out of their day to share with our riders the importance of funding T1D research, and what life is like with T1D.

Thank you again to everyone who participated and to our incredible corporate partners. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.
Local PartnerReal Estate Hour SponsorReal Estate Hour Sponsor

Corporate Champions

McCarthy Tetrault
Sorbara Group of Companies

Corporate Supporters

Avison Young
First Onsite
Forest Contractors
GWL Realty Advisors Inc
KingSett Capital

Opus Mechanical Services Ltd

JDRF Golf Challenge a great success

Once again in 2023, David Garfinkle and Steven Mitchell – along with a team of supporters rallied Canadians to come together to support type 1 diabetes (T1D) research by committing to pick up their clubs this summer and join the JDRF Golf Challenge.

The JDRF Golf Challenge has its roots in the JDRF Golf Marathon, first started forty years ago by David and Steven in the early 80s. They revived the event in 2022, and from that came this year’s Golf Challenge.

From August 13-20, (and throughout the year) players from across the country and around the world were invited to tee off for T1D and take up the JDRF Golf Challenge to play a collective 11,000 holes of golf in support of the approximately 11,000 Canadians who will be diagnosed with T1D this year.

The challenge couldn’t have been simpler. Play a round (or several) of 18 holes, go marathon-style and play from dusk till dawn, hit the driving range or even take the family to mini putt, the event was open to any golfer of any skillset to play in support of accelerating the most promising T1D research.

Thank you to all that participated in this year’s Golf Challenge and Tournaments.

Events were held and participants Teed Off for T1D across the country (and even around the world with an event taking place in Dubai!). Together participants raised an outstanding over $200K and counting!

Thank you as well to our:

  • Top Fundraising Teams – Dude Where is my Par, the Dubai Mighty Ballers and Fore Amigos
  • Top Fundraisers – Adam Rockman of Quebec and Tanner Smook (Manitoba) and Jonathan Garfinkle (Quebec)
  • Our Committee – David Garfinkle, Steven Mitchell, Zoe Bowen, Tracey Beasley-Allison and Honorary members Max Domi and Kaleb Dahlgren
  • Our matching donor – David Garfinkle
  • Our Partners –Corporate Champion– Richter, Family Office and Community Partner- Muskoka Bay Resort & Spa

This was truly a collective effort and JDRF is so grateful to everyone who contributed, whether by volunteering, contributing, or playing golf. Plans are already underway for a new event in 2024.

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

Dr. Sing-Young Chen is a postdoctoral researcher at the JDRF Centre of Excellence at the University of British Columbia, and the second annual 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. Chen to congratulate her on her new fellowship and discuss her research.   

Tell us a little bit more about your background.  

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Sydney, studying biochemistry and physiology. During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate to take part in a summer research program at Vanderbilt University, which is when I first became interested in islet biology. Then, I did my PhD at the University of New South Wales, where I studied obesity and obesity-related diseases, with a focus on physiology and drug development.

I’m now at UBC for my postdoctoral training where I am investigating sex differences in islet responses to stress, with the hope of developing novel treatments for type 1 diabetes.

What brought you to Vancouver?  

I wanted to work with the researchers at UBC as I had followed their work for a while, and I knew the T1D research there was very strong, and I wanted to be a part of that. I was pleased to find that, coming here, I knew immediately that it was the right move. From the start, I learned so much and I’m learning more every day.

What drew you to type 1 diabetes?  

It was really a combination of scientific curiosity and the desire to do something that helps people in the world.

In terms of scientific curiosity, I learned early in my career that I had a particular interest in beta cells and pancreatic islets. If we stop to think about it, it’s actually so incredible that beta-cells can make so much insulin in response to nutrients and other stimuli and they do it so well, in such a controlled way. From a purely scientific viewpoint, they are endlessly fascinating.

But from a human perspective, I know that working on this has real meaning for real people, and like all scientists, I wanted to do something meaningful. I have friends who live with T1D, and I have only glimpsed how challenging it can be. Knowing my work may one day help them and others like them is a very special thing.

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

My research focuses on understanding sex differences in beta-cell resilience to stresses associated with T1D.

In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-secreting beta-cells are subject to many stresses – for example, they are attacked by the immune system and there is a high demand for insulin. Pancreatic islets from females are more resilient to these stresses than islets from males and can survive to keep making insulin. My research seeks to understand and leverage these sex differences with a view to develop cell therapies that will thrive in a T1D environment.

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

The Fellowship truly makes the research possible. Science is a team sport that involves a lot of networking and collaboration, and I’ve been really pleasantly surprised at all the resources and expertise that we can draw upon at both the JDRF Centre of Excellence and through SCN. It really helps us not to be limited and therefore be able to go where the science takes us.

Sometimes I’m in a meeting with my supervisors and they’ll just say, “Oh Francis Lynn* can answer that”, or “we can ask Bruce Verchere*”, and it’s so special that all this knowledge is accessible in this way.

 *T1D researchers at the JDRF Centre of Excellence

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

I’ve always been aware that the literature has a sort of bias in different fields. For example, I knew that lots of pre-existing research that only use mice of a single biological sex, but I didn’t realize how extensive the problem was and that historically most research almost never incorporated both sexes in the early stages (before in-human clinical trials). This has also often been the case with diabetes research. We’re missing so much information.

And on another note, I’ve learned that it’s surprising how much you need to get proper sleep! Science is so detail-oriented and it’s so much more important than even I realized to be well-rested.

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

I’m so appreciative to have constant opportunities for learning and collaborating – and being able to make a difference in the world. The freedom to be able to explore and realize there are no limits to curiosity and learning.

It’s rare to have a career where you get to learn every day and realize that your curiosity can take you to places you never expected.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the JDRF Community?  

I’m so grateful to be here and to have the opportunity to both do important and meaningful work and continue to grow and learn as a researcher and scientist. As researchers, and as human beings, we all play a small part so that together we can accomplish great things. I realize I’ve been incredibly fortunate with the opportunities and education that I’ve had, and I’m committed to contribute as best as I can to our mission.

Results are out: TZIELD (teplizumab) benefits individuals newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes

In a coordinated release of information today, Dr. Kevan Herold (Yale University) presented the PROTECT clinical trial results at the International Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD) conference simultaneous to the release of the published article in the New England Journal of Medicine, and a press release issued by Sanofi (who acquired Provention Bio in April 2023). The PROTECT trial investigated whether teplizumab (brand name: TZIELD) can delay the progression of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in newly diagnosed (stage 3 T1D) children and adolescents ages 8-17. Based on the results, it can.

Over 300 participants took part in the study, with 217 receiving teplizumab and 111 receiving a placebo treatment. The results showed:

  • TZIELD was effective at helping to keep the beta cells working better, as shown by something called C-peptide, which is a measure of how well beta cells are functioning.
  • Participants taking TZIELD needed slightly less insulin, and had slightly improved time-in-range compared to the placebo group, however, these results weren’t statistically significant.
  • Tzield has the potential to slow the progression of Stage 3 T1D in newly diagnosed individuals

“This new study shows that Tzield can slow down the autoimmune attack on insulin-producing beta cells in children and adolescents newly diagnosed with T1D,” said Sarah Linklater, PhD, JDRF Canada’s Chief Scientific Officer.

“This is new evidence that we can successfully intervene during this window of opportunity right after diagnosis – a critical step towards cures. Slowing down progression also provides important health benefits for individuals with T1D in the short- and long term. We applaud Provention Bio and Sanofi’s ongoing dedication to advancing disease-modifying therapies for individuals with T1D. JDRF continues to support a large amount of research on disease-modifying therapies as there is enormous potential for these types of treatments to benefit people living with the condition.”

JDRF has supported the development of teplizumab for nearly 30 years, which includes contributions through research grants, federal funding via the Special Diabetes Program, a strategic investment by the JDRF T1D Fund that brought Provention Bio into T1D for the first time, and more.

Currently, TZIELD is only approved in the U.S. by the FDA for use in individuals with stage 2 T1D (pre-diagnosis), which is identified via screening. The use of TZIELD in individuals within 6-weeks of T1D diagnosis (within stage 3) has not been submitted for approval to any regulator.

JDRF Canada will continue to monitor ongoing news of Tzield and will provide updates as they become available.

Building capacity for the future of type 1 diabetes research

Training the next generation of researchers and clinicians in type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a central goal of JDRF’s global research strategy. Support of these emerging leaders is essential to ensure continued momentum in T1D research, and to facilitate translation of today’s evidence into tomorrow’s improved treatments and cures. JDRF seeks to attract and retain the brightest minds into the T1D field throughout their journeys to becoming independent researchers.

Research trainees are typically considered any researchers who are not yet independently conducting research. This can include students pursuing master’s degrees or Ph.D.’s, postdoctoral fellows, or junior clinician researchers. Trainees are in many ways the engine that drives research forward, as they are often the ones actively conducting the hands-on research activities in the lab or interacting with patients in the clinic.

The process

The journey to becoming an independent researcher can be long and challenging – and requires substantial funding to support. After a bachelor’s degree, which takes 3-4 years of undergraduate university courses, a trainee can enroll in a research-based master’s degree. This is typically 2-3 years and consists of coursework, independent research overseen closely by a supervisor (a university professor in a faculty position), and a thesis project. Some programs allow a master’s student to transition to a Ph.D. program after 1-year, otherwise PhD enrollment occurs following completion of a master’s degree. In Canada, a Ph.D. program is 4-5 years where students delve deeply into a specific research area, conducting original research, collaborating with mentors and peers, and presenting their findings at conferences. They complete coursework, pass comprehensive exams, and write a dissertation that contributes new knowledge to their field.

JDRF currently funds 6 PhD students through the Canadian Islet Research Training Network (CIRTN). These students are mentored by renowned researchers in T1D, further enhancing Canada’s reputation for islet research and helping to secure the future of research.

“JDRF Canada has long been a leader in supporting diabetes research, and also in ensuring that the next generation has the skills to positively impact diabetes research, treatment, and knowledge mobilization. The Canadian Islet Research and Training Network (CIRTN) is fortunate to partner with JDRF Canada to support enhanced training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who both contribute to important diabetes research through their work and represent future leaders in diabetes research in Canada.” – Patrick MacDonald, PhD, Professor at University of Alberta and lead of the Canadian Islet Research and Training Network (CIRTN)

After obtaining a Ph.D., many researchers pursue postdoctoral fellowships to gain the additional specialized training and expertise that is required before they can land a tenure-track position in academia, a clinician-scientist position in a research hospital, or a position as a staff scientist at a company. These fellowships can last from 1-5 years. Postdocs work closely with established researchers in a specific lab or institution, honing their research skills, expanding their scientific network, and producing high-impact research publications.

“JDRF fellowships transformed my scientific career, empowering me to pursue my research ideas, connect with the T1D community and ultimately propelled me onto a career path of innovation with the goal of improving the lives of people living with T1D.” – Heather Denroche, PhD, Director of Preclinical Development, Integrated Nanotherapeutics, Inc. and past holder of a JDRF Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship

Research trainees may also be on the pathway to becoming a clinician-scientist (i.e., a practicing physician that also conducts research). In this case trainees will complete a bachelor’s degree, medical school, and then during their residency training they can do research fellowships or a clinician investigator program. They will split their time between clinical training and research training, often towards the pursuit of a master’s or Ph.D. (alongside their M.D.).

The contribution

Not only do trainees conduct much of the hands-on research that is led by an independent researcher, but they often bring new skills, fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the lab. Their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints can lead to novel approaches and creative solutions to research questions. Trainees contribute by conducting comprehensive literature reviews to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field. They analyze existing research to identify gaps, refine hypotheses, and design experiments that build upon previous work. Trainees often manage specific projects within the lab and play an essential role in publication of the research (i.e., manuscripts or journal articles). As trainees progress in their careers, more experienced trainees may take on mentorship roles for newer members of the lab. They provide guidance, support, and training, fostering a culture of learning and growth. Trainee positions are typically funded from research grants, fellowships, and awards. JDRF supports trainees in many ways – through dedicated awards specifically given to trainees for salary and research support, research grants to established researchers that are often used to support the trainees conducting the awarded research, and by partnering with programs such as CIRTN to extend government funds to trainees.

In 2022, donor funding supported over 40 research grants via JDRF. These funds largely support the primary costs of research – personnel.   Over the approximately 40 grants, JDRF funds supported:
·        33 postdoctoral fellows;
·        47 PhD students;
·        21 Master’s students; and
·        15 professional trainees including laboratory technicians.

“Trainees are the lifeblood of laboratory research, driving innovation and expanding the horizons of scientific discovery. Having been involved with JDRF’s fundraisers since my childhood diagnosis of T1D, and now being a trainee in a JDRF-funded laboratory, I understand firsthand the immense value of their unwavering support. Research funding from organizations like JDRF is pivotal in not only sustaining but also nurturing the next generation of scientists at the heart of the laboratory. This unique privilege, coupled with my deep personal connection to JDRF, has not only enriched our scientific endeavors but also fuels the promise of a future where breakthroughs in diabetes treatment and prevention are well within our reach.” – Lindsay Pallo, PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia funded in part by the JDRF Centre of Excellence and research grants to supervisor Dr. Bruce Verchere.
Career Development

While research is the central focus for trainees, career development and mentorship are integral parts of training. The eventual goal is for a trainee to establish an independent research position, whether that is as a university professor, a clinician scientist, or working within industry and private research.

The transition from trainee to independent position can be very difficult. Research funding is primarily obtained through competitive grants that rely on a past history of research funding – success begets success. JDRF helps to support this transition by funding newly independent researchers with Career Development Awards. These multi-year awards support the investigators newly independent research program, with support for new equipment, resources, and salary support where needed. In the case of clinician-scientists awards (ECRA), the funding protects the investigators time for research activities so that they can dedicate their limited resources to research rather than clinical practice while getting established.

Advancing Cell Replacement Therapy – Dr. Andrew Pepper

“With the critical support of JDRF, my laboratory will strive to preserve the legacy of the Edmonton Protocol while ushering in a new era of cellular transplantation,” Andrew Pepper, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Alberta and recipient of a JDRF Career Development Award.
Examining Barriers to Diabetes Technology – Dr. Alanna Weisman

“I believe our research will identify areas for improvement for governments, health care providers, and those living with type 1 diabetes. I hope we may see some policy changes to make technologies easier for all to access.” – Alanna Weisman, MD, PhD, Endocrinologist and Clinician-Scientist, Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes; Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto
Why put donor dollars towards training?

Funding trainees is one of the greatest ‘bang for our buck’ investments JDRF can make!  Trainee contributions to ongoing research is invaluable, and JDRF’s carefully selected trainees often become future superstars in the T1D field, who go on to mentor their own outstanding trainees.  By funding trainees and encouraging them to stay within the field of T1D research, your dollars are helping us ensure that the future of T1D research is bright.

To support these future leaders of T1D research, please contact Jen Bavli at

For more information on JDRF Canada supported research trainees, please contact

Where are they now?
ResearcherTrainee AwardCurrent Position
Dr. Heather DenrochePostdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017) & Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018-2022)Director of Preclinical Development, Integrated Nanotherapeutics, Inc.
Developing new nanomedicines to treat immune diseases such as T1D.
Dr. Adriana MiglioriniAdvanced Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018-2021)Research associate, McEwen Stem Cell Institute (University Health Network)
Developing human pluripotent stem cells as a source of insulin-producing cells for people living with T1D.
Dr. Dan LucianiCareer Development Award (2013-2019)Associate professor, University of British Columbia researching stem cell-derived beta cells
Dr. Anne PesenackerPostdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017), CCTN Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017-2018)Career Development Fellow, University College London, UK
Researching autoimmune function in arthritis and T1D.
Dr. Yasaman AghazadehCCTN Postdoctoral Fellowship (2016-2017)Assistant Professor, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
Dr. Ahmad HaidarPostdoctoral Fellowship (2013-2016)Associate professor, McGill University
Researching diabetes technologies and insulin therapies
Dr. Francis LynnPostdoctoral Fellowship (2007-2010) & Career Development Award (2011-2016)Associate professor, University of British Columbia; Investigator, BC Children’s Hospital; Research Lead, JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC
Stem cell therapies for T1D cures.
Dr. Emmeline HeffernanCCTN Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2016)Pediatrician, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children
Dr. Kate VerbeetenCCTN Postdoctoral Fellowship (2018-2019)Pediatric endocrinologist, private practice, Toronto
Dr. Ashish MarwahaCCTN Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2015)Assistant Professor, University of Calgary, geneticist researching basic immunology and member of CanScreenT1D: JDRF-CIHR Screening Research Consortium
Dr. Jennifer BruinPostdoctoral Fellowship (2011-2015)Associate Professor, Carleton University
Environmental factors affecting T1D development
Dr. Pat MacDonaldCareer Development Award (2009-2014)Professor, University of Alberta; Canada Research Chair in Islet Biology; Director of Alberta Diabetes Institute IsletCore; lead of the Canadian Islet Research and Training Network (CIRTN) researching insulin production from islet cells
Dr. Reza B. JaliliPostdoctoral Fellowship (2011-2014)Director of In Vivo Sciences, Aspect Biosystems
Developing immunoprotective biomaterials.
Dr. James SurapisitchatPostdoctoral Fellowship (2010-2012)Regional Medical Scientific Director of Oncology at Merck Pharmaceuticals
Dr. Majid MojibianPostdoctoral Fellowship (2010-2012)In Vivo Modelling Lead, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute
Dr. Pedro GeraldesAdvanced Postdoctoral Fellowship (2009-2012)Professor, Université de Sherbrooke; Canada Research Chair in Diabetes and Vascular Complications
Dr. Sylvie LesageCareer Development Award (2008-2011)Professor, Université de Montréal researching genetics of immune system cell populations
Dr. James JohnsonCareer Development Award (2005-2010)Professor, University of British Columbia; Research Lead, JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC researching islet biology
Dr. Cristina NostroPostdoctoral Fellowship (2008-2010)Senior Scientist at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute (University Health Network); Associate Professor, University of Toronto.
Stem cell therapies for T1D cures.
Dr. Lucy MarzbanPostdoctoral Fellowship (2005-2007)Associate professor, University of Manitoba researching beta cell death
Dr. Tim KiefferCareer Development Award (2001-2006)Professor, University of British Columbia researching stem cell-derived beta cells
Dr. Gregory KorbuttCareer Development Award (2000-2005)Professor, University of Alberta; Scientific Director, Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing Facility; and a member of the original Edmonton Protocol team.
Dr. Janette DufourPostdoctoral Fellowship (2001-2003)Professor, Texas Tech University
Researching protective options for islet transplantation cells