Exciting updates from Vertex stem cell-based therapy clinical trials

A large area of cure-based T1D research is investigating stem cell-based therapy. The goal of this approach is to use stem cells as a renewable source of insulin-producing cells which, when transplanted, would replace beta cells that are destroyed in a person with T1D, thereby 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.

In February 2021, Vertex announced the launch of a clinical trial for VX-880, a stem cell-derived therapy people with T1D. VX-880 is delivered via infusion into the hepatic portal vein (liver) and requires the use of chronic immunosuppressive therapy to protect the cells from rejection or immune attack.

UPDATE – June 2023

VX-880 Clinical Trial Phase 1/2 Part B:

Six patients have received full doses of VX-880 at staggered times over the past year and a half. Prior to treatment, all patients had undetectable fasting C-peptide (i.e., no self-secreted insulin, or insulin produced by the body), a history of recurrent severe hypoglycemic events in the year prior to treatment and required an average of 34.0 units of insulin per day.

Following treatment, all six patients are self-secreting insulin, improved HbA1c levels, improved time-in-range on continuous glucose monitoring, and reduction or elimination of exogenous insulin use (i.e., externally administered insulin either by pen, pump or multiple daily injection). Patients with greater than 90 days of follow-up also had elimination of severe hypoglycemic events. Two of the six patients are at least 12 months post-treatment and are currently insulin independent with “normal” HbA1c levels (≤6.0%) and time-in-range levels over 95%.

VX-880 has been well tolerated with only mild-moderate adverse events such as: dehydration, diarrhea, hypomagnesemia and rash.

Based on the result of these safety and efficacy data in Part B, the independent data review committee has recommended moving to Part C of the trial, which allows for concurrent dosing of patients at the full target dose of VX-880. Approximately 10 participants will be enrolled in this stage of the trial in Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. For more information, please see ClinicalTrials.gov or Vertex’s website.

VX-264 Clinical Trial Phase 1/2:

This treatment will use the same cell therapy as VX-880, but encapsulate the cells within a device designed to shield the cells from the body’s immune system. Therefore, immunosuppression is not expected to be required. Recruitment is currently ongoing in Edmonton. For more information please see ClinicalTrials.gov or Vertex’s website.

Vertex partners with Lonza (Switzerland) to build a dedicated manufacturing facility for T1D cell therapies

Vertex and Lonza will partner in the process development and scale-up for the manufacturing of the VX-880 and VX-264 product portfolio and co-invest to build a dedicated new facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Operated by Lonza, the facility will span more than 130,000 square feet and is anticipated to create up to 300 new jobs at peak capacity. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year. For more information, please see the full press release here.

VX-880 Clinical Trial Phase 1/2 Part A:

On October 18, 2021, the company announced that the first trial participant to receive VX-880 now needs 91% less insulin 90 days after receiving an infusion of these stem cells – and at just half the target dose.

The success seen with just half the target dose is exciting as it suggests a lower level of this therapy may still yield positive results.

However, it is important to be cautious at the same time, as this result has thus far only been demonstrated in a single individual.

How is success of this clinical trial measured?

VX-880 is being tested in people with T1D who have severe hypoglycemia and impaired hypoglycemia unawareness. The treatment requires immunosuppression, as the transplanted cells do not have any protection from the immune system. This requirement limits the patient population who can be enrolled in the trial.

The primary goal of this phase 1/2 trial is to assess safety, although efficacy will also be measured. Vertex is evaluating efficacy by measuring a few key metrics. This includes measuring C-peptide levels—a marker that directly indicates insulin production by beta cells. The participant in this study had no detectable C-peptide at all pre-infusion. 90 days after infusion of the VX-880 cells, the participant had both fasting and stimulated C-peptide, which directly indicates the presence of basal and glucose-responsive insulin secretion. In other words, the person was making some of their own insulin.

Treatment with VX-880 also led to a significant reduction in HbA1c, improving from 8.6% to 7.2% without severe hypoglycemic events. Even more impressive is that this lower HbA1c was achieved with a 91% daily reduction in insulin administration.

The study also demonstrated patient safety, as during the first 90 days, the participant did not experience any severe adverse events considered related to VX-880. This is important as immunosuppressive drugs do come with potential side effects.

JDRF’s Role

JDRF’s involvement can first be traced back to 2000, when Douglas Melton, Ph.D. was given a JDRF grant to make insulin-producing beta cells from stem cells—which he did in 2014.

Since then:

  • In 2015 Dr. Melton founded Semma Therapeutics to develop these stem cells into curative therapies for T1D.
  • In 2017, the JDRF T1D Fund made a significant investment in Semma.
  • In 2019, Vertex acquired Semma for almost $1 billion USD.
  • In March 2021, VX-880 received fast-track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

JDRF globally has prioritized stem cell therapy as a potential cure-based therapy and will continue to investigate and fund the most promising research.

What does this mean for Canadians with T1D?

For VX-880 to be broadly accessible to people with T1D, the cell product needs to both work and function without or with minimal immunosuppressive therapies.

The next step is approval to run clinical trials that could eliminate the need for immunosuppressives.

In the meantime, Vertex will continue their clinical trial for people with T1D who have severe hypoglycemia and are currently enrolling in several sites in the United States.

JDRF Canada will continue to monitor results and provide updates as they are made public.

COVID-19 Vaccine Approved by Health Canada now approved for kids six months to 5

Update: July 15, 2022

On Thursday, July 14, 2022 Health Canada approved the Moderna Spikevax Covid-19 vaccine for children aged six months to five years old. This makes approximately 1.7 million Canadian children eligible for vaccination. Health Canada has authorized a two-dose primary series of 25 micrograms each, with the second dose to be administered 4 weeks after the first dose. This is half the dose authorized for children six to eleven years old and one quarter of the dose authorized for people over twelve years of age.

Clinical trials were conducted during the Omicron surge and demonstrated that the vaccine is well-tolerated and had comparable efficacy to those in other age cohorts. While there is no specific information on children six months to five years old with type 1 diabetes, the vaccine is considered safe and effective. JDRF recommends speaking to your healthcare professionals if you have any questions or require more information.

Read more here: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2022/07/health-canada-authorizes-use-of-moderna-covid-19-vaccine-in-children-6-months-to-5-years-of-age.html


On Friday, November 19, 2021, Health Canada approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children 5-11 years old.  

Parents now have the option to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.  

Having type 1 diabetes (T1D) itself does not increase the risk of contracting the virus. As with any virus, however, there is the possibility for more severe health outcomes for kids with T1D, including hospitalization  and increased potential for both hypo and hyperglycemic episodes.  

As well, some children who contracted COVID-19 developed a rare but serious condition known as Multi Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C results in the severe inflammation of some organs and tissues — like the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin, or eyes. Children, including those with T1D, can lower their risk of serious complications by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The goal is always to try and prevent your child from getting ill in the first place. And with most kids back in school and activities, the possibility of encountering the coronavirus increases. The greater the number of people who are vaccinated, the lower the potential for community spread. 

How are the children’s vaccines different? 

The vaccine dose for children 5-11 is lower than the 12+ dosage – 10mcg versus 30mcg. Clinical trials with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine demonstrated significant antibody development at this dosage relative to the adult dose, showing a 90.7% efficacy against the virus

The dosing schedule for Canadian children will be eight weeks between doses, as opposed to the three-week schedule currently being applied in the United States. NACI, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, has recommended this dosing schedule under the assumption that it increases antibodies and may potentially lengthen the period between the second dose and antibodies waning. 

It’s important to maintain the same measures (masking, handwashing, social distancing) between the two doses to try and prevent infection before the full series has been administered. 

What if there are vaccine side effects? 

Children may experience the same side effects as many adults: fatigue, muscle aches and chills, slight fever with headaches, and arm soreness. 

Some adults with T1D found that the vaccine affected their blood sugar levels. Make sure to check your child’s blood sugar levels more frequently in the first few days after the vaccine to monitor for any potentials highs or lows that can be quickly managed. 

When will vaccines be available for kids under five? 

In September 2021, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla announced that data on the COVID-19 vaccine for children between two and four years old should be available by the end of the year.  

They are also currently running trials for infants six months to toddler (two-years-old), but there has been no announced timeline on when data from these trials will be made publicly available.  

Until such time as full approval comes for all age groups, even after vaccination, it’s important to continue to maintain the same public health measures as before, masking in indoor spaces, good hygiene and handwashing, and limited interactions with crowds. 

As with all health decisions, reach out to your child’s healthcare team to come to the decision that is best for your family. 

Additional resources: 
Canadian Pediatric Society: https://cps.ca/en/documents/position/covid-19-vaccine-for-children 

Health Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/vaccination-children/covid-19.html 

The JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes announces two new funding opportunities for specialized diabetes research

On April 20, 2022, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and JDRF announced new funding for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research in the areas of precision medicine and psychosocial health. This new tranche of funding stems from the 2021 Federal Budget announcement on strategic investments in diabetes research.

The JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes is a landmark collaboration announced in 2017 between the Government of Canada, through CIHR, who invested $15M and JDRF Canada who matched that investment with an additional $15M to support transformative T1D research.

CIHR-JDRF Team Grants: Precision Medicine in Type 1 Diabetes

Precision medicine is an important approach to treating disease that is based on an individual’s personal health factors. Often described as ‘the right treatment for the right patient at the right time’, precision medicine focuses on integrating data about genetic, molecular, and environmental factors to improve disease diagnosis, care, treatment or prevention.

A greater understanding of how individual characteristics ‒ including genetics, biomarkers and immune and beta cell dysfunction ‒ contribute to T1D risk and progression may lead to more precise therapeutic targets, better characterization of disease risk and how it may progress in an individual, improved opportunities for safe and effective intervention and, ultimately prevention of T1D.

Complementing previous CIHR and JDRF investments in new T1D research as part of 100 Years of Insulin: Accelerating Canadian Discoveries to Defeat Diabetes, the CIHR-JDRF Team Grants: Precision Medicine in Type 1 Diabetes will support multi-disciplinary research to accelerate precision medicine approaches for prediction, prevention, and treatment of T1D. 

CIHR-JDRF Operating Grants in Diabetes, Psychosocial Health, Prevention and Self-Management

Research has shown an increasingly clear relationship between diabetes and a variety of psychosocial factors. Psychosocial factors are the constellation of environmental, social, behavioural, and emotional factors that can influence both disease management and emotional and psychological well-being.  But standard care for diabetes doesn’t always address psychosocial health concerns despite evidence that poor psychosocial health can result in poorer outcomes for disease management.

This new funding opportunity will help to support JDRF’s Mental Health Strategy, which aims to close gaps in mental health support to improve both the quality of life and health outcomes for Canadians with T1D.

Specific to T1D, this funding opportunity will support research that is focused on interventions and models of care that address psychosocial issues and mental health disorders in people with T1D to improve mental health and associated quality of life and/or clinical outcomes.

Since its inception in 2017, the CIHR-JDRF Partnership to Defeat Diabetes has funded 11 innovative clinical trials and translational research projects to accelerate the development of new treatment approaches for people with T1D, in addition to cures for the disease. Most recently, JDRF announced a new investment of $7 million to support four Canadian research teams as part of the Partnership. Learn more about the funded research projects from the Partnership.

The CIHR-JDRF Partnership to Defeat Diabetes is one of the six pillars of JDRF’s $100 Million Campaign to Accelerate. These two opportunities will unlock $18M of the next $30M of funding through the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes. JDRF is committed to raising the funds required to support the research that will be funded through these two opportunities. 

To learn more or support, please visit: https://jdrf.ca/get-involved/accelerate/

JDRF is very thankful to our donors who have made these funding opportunities in new areas of focus possible. Further updates on the projects and the researchers who secure the grants will be provided as they become available.

Thank you to our volunteers

National Volunteer Week takes place from April 24-30, 2022, as organizations across the country celebrate those who generously donate their time and talents to their community.  

The National Volunteer Week theme for 2022 is Volunteering Is Empathy in Action, affirming the strong connection between volunteerism and empathy. The theme also emphasizes that Volunteers Bring Heart to Canada’s Communities and that this profoundly human connection is at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities. 

JDRF’s volunteers are unquestionably the heart and soul of what we do. Some of our dedicated volunteers share why they devote their time to JDRF and what being a volunteer means to them. 

Why I volunteer 

Ariane Archambault, Montreal QC
Diagnosed age 11 

I started volunteering in different organizations 4-5 years ago, because I felt that I needed to get involved, to be around people with different realities than mine, to understand different points of view and especially to try to be useful somewhere in society.  

For a long time, I wanted to get involved with other young people with type 1 diabetes, but I didn’t feel mentally strong enough to reassure, advise and equip people who face the same difficulties as I do every day. I needed detachment, perspective, experience and most of all to work on accepting the disease first before trying to inspire others to do the same.  

After 14 years of living with type 1 diabetes, experiencing the ups and downs, I decided to seek help from JDRF’s Peer Support Program, as I was going through a little discouragement. It felt so good to talk to someone who was going through the same issues as I was, that I immediately wanted to get involved!  

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to help a few newly diagnosed people get through the emotional roller coaster that comes with a diagnosis. I realize that I wish someone had been there to answer all my questions and concerns when I was diagnosed at age 11. It’s not easy to see your daily life take a 180 degree turn and to feel alone in this new reality, so it’s great if I could contribute, in a small way, to breaking the isolation. We should all listen to each other more and be really interested in what others may be going through, even if it is miles away from our reality.  

Being asked how you’re doing, for real, and being listened to, changes everything.  

 I am also involved in JDRF Marketing in Quebec, and I am also part of the JDRF Mental Health Advisory Board, which aims to develop a mental health strategy to better support people with type 1 diabetes.   

I try to raise awareness as much as possible with those around me, because over the years I have come to realize that type 1 diabetes is not well known, and therefore not well understood, which contributes to the isolation of people with the disease. Every time I can help someone who is going through the same thing as I am, I always feel a little more confident.  

Motria Iwan, Victoria BC 
Diagnosed age 14 

Motria is a JDRF volunteer in Victoria, BC who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old.  She has participated in multiple JDRF fundraising events since being diagnosed and she currently volunteers as a graphic designer at JDRF.  

In November 2021, with the help of the JDRF team, Motria organized her own National Diabetes Awareness Month fundraising initiative which raised over $10,000 for JDRF. Motria also initiated Langford City Hall in BC to proclaim November as National Diabetes Awareness Month and she organized the Royal BC Museum, Victoria City Hall, and the BC Parliament Building to light up blue on November 14th in honour of World Diabetes Day and 100 years since the discovery of insulin.  

Motria loves contributing her abilities as a user experience and interface designer to benefit the diabetic community and she aims to inspire people with type 1 diabetes. 

Raj Huitin, Thornhill, ON 
Diagnosed age 2 

My name is Raj and I have type 1 diabetes. I’ve been living with this condition for almost 14 years now, and it has become a part of my daily routine. I was diagnosed as a 2 year old toddler, which was extremely overwhelming for my parents. While the hospital provided great support, my parents leaned on the JDRF right away for mentorship from other parents, attending informational sessions, and participating in family events such as the ride and the walk for the cure. 
Seeing this journey made my decide that I would like to contribute as well. Volunteering helps me give back to the community that has helped me and so many others. The most fulfilling part of volunteering is that I know I am helping others with their conditions learn just like I did. Diabetes isn’t a weakness; I would actually say it has certain benefits as well. It has helped me build my resilience with school and sports. Without fail the JDRF has helped numerous kids like me and my family countless times and I love volunteering for them. 

Ruby Pilatzke, Petawawa, ON 
Diagnosed age 9  

School was out for the summer June of 2013. I was 9 and looking forward to spending time with friends, taking in all the fun and wonderment the break typically had to offer. That summer was anything but typical. It started with me wetting the bed again. I had long outgrown that. At this time too, I was so thirsty.  One weekend I drank water bottle after water bottle only to have my thirst never quenched.  

The thing that couldn’t be ignored though was my sudden weight loss. It happened without warning, really overnight. It was drastic to say the least. So pronounced, my looks changed making me barely recognizable to those who knew me well. My mom had helped me have a bath just prior and she couldn’t believe how thin I was. Mom is a nurse and knew what diabetes was, I know.  She even said to me one night “mommy doesn’t know Ruby. Maybe you have diabetes.”   

Almost a week later though the weight loss couldn’t be ignored. That was the tipping point which triggered the trip to the emergency department. Along with my vital signs, my blood sugar was assessed. The reading was high, confirming my mom’s suspicions. July 29, 2013 brought the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and a world none of us was prepared for.    

I learned of JDRF early on in my diagnosis, when it was suggested I sign up for their Bag of Hope. A welcome package so to speak for those with Type 1 diabetes. It has useful resources for the person with diabetes and their caregivers. I got it and among other things it had resources to help explain this complex disease, information about an annual walk and a stuffed animal with patches to help with injections, ironically it’s name was Ruby.  

My mom accessed resources from the organization to help prepare those at my school for my return in September. I was interested in the Walk and invited some friends and family to join me. We went and I wasn’t prepared for the number of people there. I was overwhelmed at the support I saw and felt. So many people all there with one common interest. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone.  

Since then I have been an annual JDRF walk participant and have become more involved. I attended the Dia-beat-it Gala twice and enjoyed having an avenue there to tell my story. Seeing donors contribute to the fight against Type 1 diabetes was empowering.   

From there, I was asked to be a youth ambassador. Valuing JDRF’s mission, “Improving lives today and tomorrow by accelerating life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat type one diabetes and it’s complications”, this designation was such an honour.  

I have enjoyed composing social media videos and articles to raise awareness of this disease. Even with the pandemic when the Walk plans had to change, I changed with them. I did a virtual fundraiser talking my brothers into shaving their heads which helped raise $7000.  

Once again, the following year, the walk was forced to pivot from what it traditionally had been. With insulin’s discovery 100 years prior it got me thinking. The idea to walk 100 km was born and came to fruition. I trekked for 22 hours straight, gaining lots of attention by media coverage and kind folks driving by honking in their cars.  

I was able to use my voice to bring exposure to the realities and struggles that comprise Type 1 diabetes. I also blew my $10,000 fundraising goal out of the water. At the finish line it was announced that I raised a total of just over $28,000. I know those in my community know more about the disease because of me and that is a good feeling. Knowledge is power. That can only make things better for myself and others that live with this disease and until there is a cure that’s what I can ask for.    

Celebrating our JDRF National Youth Champions (NYCs)  

A very special group of JDRF volunteers consists of amazing teenagers who champion leadership in their communities. Residing across Canada, our 11 JDRF NYCs were selected to spread awareness, advocate on behalf of all Canadians, and empower young people who have been newly diagnosed with T1D.  

These deeply motivated volunteers created a T1D myth busting campaign, participated in JDRF events, and launched their own project titled The 100 Project which raised $9,497.00 in just a few short months. These volunteers have been featured on local radio stations, in schools and in numerous local newspapers. They are strong advocates for change, and for a cure. A big thank you to the 2021 NYC volunteers who have created pathways for young people living with T1D across Canada.  

“Volunteering as an NYC allowed me the opportunity to meet people with the same goals. I enjoyed being part of the group to fundraise and share my common story with others!” – Miranda DeFazio, NYC  

“Being an NYC has been an amazing opportunity. Hearing all the ideas from other type ones on how we can raise awareness and raise money for JDRF has been something I have always wanted to do! I love being able to use my voice for other people in the same situations as me!” – Anika Dyck, NYC 

“For me, being a young national champion means getting involved on a larger scale for the cause. It is to take a bigger step, not only by taming my disease, but also by fighting to make known the reality of life with T1D with young people from all across Canada.” – Juliette Benoît, NYC 

“Being able to volunteer with JDRF in this role has been nothing but rewarding and empowering! I have so enjoyed having the opportunity to make a difference for type one diabetics in Canada through the fundraising and advocacy work I have gotten to do as a JDRF National Youth Champion. JDRF is helping to change the world, and I am incredibly thankful to have gotten a chance to be a part of that.” – Anne Pettigrew NYC 

“Being an NYC means that I can educate and learn from others about T1D!  It allows me to raise both funds AND awareness for a cause that I am passionate about and connects me with others who feel the same.”- Aaliyah 

To learn more about the 100 Project visit: https://jdrf.akaraisin.com/ui/pc/p/The100Project?Lang=en-CA 

Thank you to our National Youth Champions  

Sophia Orth, 18 

Tora Yacey, 17 

Anne Pettigrew, 16 

Miranda DeFazio, 14 

Juliette Benoît, 18 

Ruby Pilatzke, 18 

Anika Dyck, 18 

Kurtis Samagalski, 17 

Édouard Chatigny, 17 

Vanessa Galluchon, 16 

Aaliyah Cook, 16 

Abbottsford, BC 

Calgary, AB 

Etobicoke, ON 

Brampton, ON 

L’ Assomption, QC 

Petawawa, ON 

Regina, SK 

Sherwood Park, AB 

Quebec City, QC 

Moncton, NB 

Halifax, NS 

And thank you to all our dedicated and passionate volunteers. While we acknowledge our volunteers during this week, we our thankful and grateful for all they do each and every day. They are truly at the heart of JDRF and together will get us closer to a world free from type 1 diabetes. 

History was made again

Making history is not easy. After discovering insulin 100 years ago, Frederick Banting and Charles Best spent tireless nights isolating and purifying it to treat type 1 diabetes (T1D). Their discovery saved millions of lives. Generous donors have fueled further research breakthroughs, yet those living with T1D still require insulin to stay alive. Canada gave the world the first and still only treatment for diabetes – and JDRF knows that it’s now time to give the world a cure.

This is why JDRF has embarked on a campaign to accelerate diabetes research and has invited all Canadians to join us on the path to a cure. In only 20 months, JDRF Canada’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate has reached more than 70% of its goal.

To support the public launch of the Campaign, on Monday, April 4, 2022, five brave Canadians set out to do something historic. They decided to live atop a 40-foot flagpole for 100 hours each as part of our Let’s Make History Again event to help raise awareness and funds in pursuit of a cure for T1D, a disease that affects more than 300,000 Canadians. Located in Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and two in Toronto, the uniqueness of the event and the ingenious construction of the flagpoles generated interest, fascination and helped to raise awareness of the realities of what it’s like to live with T1D.

Let’s Make History Again is truly a rallying cry for all Canadians who have been impacted by diabetes,” says Dave Prowten, President and CEO of JDRF Canada.

Leader in History, Leanne Souquet, with the Dexcom team, in Montreal

“While the discovery of insulin in Canada 100 years ago has saved millions of lives, it is still only a treatment and not a cure. It is fitting that now is the time to map out the next era of discovery in type 1 diabetes research. Not only will this event provide the funds to accelerate our work finding a cure for this disease, but it’s incredibly inspiring to see so many Canadians and families galvanized by this cause that touches the lives of so many,” he continues.

After facing inhospitable weather and dealing head-on with the unique challenges that come with living atop a flagpole, history was made. The Leaders in History successfully completed the Flagpole 100 Challenge.

JDRF extends a huge thank you to our Leaders: Vanessa, Leanne, Wilson, Chris and Ryan, and our original Leader in HistoryPeter Oliver.

In 1990, Peter Oliver was the first to live on top a 40-foot flagpole to raise funds and awareness for type 1 diabetes (T1D), with a goal of raising $250,000. With his leadership and initiative, JDRF reimagined his original campaign to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first successful insulin injection and raise awareness of the 100M Campaign to Accelerate.

Leaders in History, Peter and Vanessa Oliver, in front of their flagpole in Toronto.

“I still remember getting the call when my daughter Vanessa was first diagnosed at the age of six,” says Peter Oliver. “You never forget the moment you learn your child has a disease they will need to manage for the rest of their lives. Ever since, it has been a personal commitment to do everything I can to ensure no other family experiences that moment. I’m so proud of all our Leaders in History, the volunteers and JDRF staff who have worked tirelessly to bring this event back to life. I really believe that we are on the cusp of a cure for diabetes, and it will once again mark an incredible Canadian achievement in medicine,” he continues.

It was an incredible week of excitement, connection, and momentum. The Leaders in History selflessly shared their 100 hours by participating in IG lives, posting to social media, hosting special guests, participating in media interviews, contacting donors by phone all to share what it was like to be atop their flagpole, what the event meant to them, the diabetes technology that has impacted their daily life, and how a cure would change the lives of themselves, their families, and millions of people around the globe.

Ambassador and long-time volunteer with JDRF, Miriam DosAnjos and her son, Youth Ambassador, Mason DosAnjos

But they weren’t alone. Camping in solidarity with them were Ambassadors of History families and individuals across the country, and an army of motivated supporters across Canada who also came together to support JDRF’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate.

“There are no words to truly describe what a special week this was for JDRF,” says Prowten.

“It is incredibly exciting to see all the energy around our Let’s Make History Again event. This is such a remarkable accomplishment, with great media coverage, donations and the hard work of our staff and devoted volunteers. I had the honour of visiting the sites – and was so incredibly proud – it truly takes a group of wonderful, dedicated people to make an event like this possible, and that hard work was being witnessed everywhere,” he continues.

JDRF also recognizes James and Louise Temerty, who are generously matching all donations up to $10 million through Temerty Foundation until May 31, 2022. This was the single largest gift to fund T1D research in Canadian history. The donation was made with the hopes of inspiring others to step forward to support diabetes research and bring us closer to a cure.

Their generosity resonated with Susan and Brian Beamish of WB Family Foundation; longtime JDRF supporters who were spurred to make an additional gift of $3M in support of the $100M Campaign to Accelerate.

As of April 21, 2022, the Let’s Make History Again event has raised close to $11 million in support of the most promising T1D research.

This initiative also would not have been possible without JDRF’s volunteers, donors, and corporate partners’ tireless, dedicated support. All five flagpole structures were fabricated and painted entirely by volunteers. As well, all the structural materials, supplies and services were generously donated at no cost to JDRF to bring Peter Oliver’s vision to life. Thank you to everyone involved.

JDRF is deeply grateful to our many supporters uniting for a cure, helping Canada to make history again:

Advocate Printing
Atlas Tube
B+H Architects
Bercon Rentals Inc
Canadian Pacific
Chop Steakhouse & Bar
Crawford Metal Corp
D. Dyment Haulage
Desjardins Insurance
Equal Parts Hospitality
Flipp Advertising
Gradient Wind Engineering
Groupe Atwill-Morin Inc.
Grouse Mountain Resort
Insulet Corporation
Island Marketing
Janco Steel
Lawlor Safety
Les entreprises d’électricité E.G. Ltée
Moduloc Fence Rentals
Mulvey & Banani International Inc
Myshak Crane & Rigging
Northern Mat & Bridge LP
Northland Properties
Pomp & Circumstance
PPG Paints Canada
Precision Bolts
Priestly Demolition
Protec Installation Group
Read Jones Christoffersen
Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Richard Steel
RKM Crane Services LTD
Roche Diabetes Care
RTI Industrial Ltd
Safety First Consulting
Salit Steel
Sandman Hotel Group
Shadeview Structures Inc.
Tandem Diabetes Care Canada, Inc.
The Sutton Place Hotels
United Rentals
Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Canada)
Westcan Scaffolding Inc
Western Electrical Management Ltd.

It’s never been a more exciting time in T1D research, and with your support, every day we get closer to a world free from type 1 diabetes. Thank you, Canada.

Exciting new JDRF partnership has been announced to develop an implantable islet therapy to treat type 1 diabetes

A significant part of JDRF’s research strategy is funding innovative therapies that can lead to treatment for type 1 diabetes (T1D) and eventually a cure. As part of this it was announced on April 6, 2022, that Vancouver, BC, Canada and New York, NY based company Aspect Biosystems (“Aspect”), are partnering to develop a bioengineered tissue therapeutic treatment for T1D. Aspect is a biotechnology company that develops bioengineered tissue therapeutics to transform how diseases are treated.

What is the aim of the partnership?

The JDRF-Aspect partnership supports Aspect’s development of bioengineered tissues that will provide insulin independence and control of blood sugar without the need for chronic immune suppression. In addition to funding, JDRF is also contributing strategic support through its vast network in the diabetes research field.

How does it work?

Diabetes researchers are always searching for a renewable source of insulin-producing cells that could conceivably replace or act as the beta cells that are destroyed in a person with T1D. This would allow them to produce insulin again, and either lessen or ideally eliminate the administration of exogenous (not produced intrinsically by the body) insulin required by someone living with T1D (either by injection, pen, or pump).

The biggest challenges to this are identifying the appropriate stem cell source (i.e., pancreatic cells, or liver cells) and ensuring that not only do they work to produce insulin – but they also won’t be rejected by a person’s immune system. Much like a transplanted organ – most of these kinds of therapies require immunosuppressing medications to prevent rejection.

Aspect is leveraging its proprietary bioprinting technology, therapeutic cells, and materials science to create a pipeline of cell-based tissue therapeutics that replace or repair damaged organ functions. These tissue therapeutics are engineered to be biologically functional, immune-protective, and suitable for surgical implantation to treat diseases such as type 1 diabetes.

In other words – these bioengineered cells could become an external and renewable source of beta cells that could be available to anyone with T1D.  Cells that can be safely transplanted and start producing insulin, without the need for any immunosuppression medication, would be a game-changer in T1D treatment.

“For more than 20 years, JDRF has been a leader in cell-based tissue therapy research for type 1 diabetes,” said Esther Latres, Assistant Vice President of Research at JDRFI, of which JDRF Canada is an affiliate organization. “This funding partnership with Aspect Biosystems will support and continue scientific advancements in the field and undeniably take us closer to finding a cure.”

What are the next steps?

The partnership will provide the funding needed to advance Aspect’s cutting-edge pancreatic tissue program. The work proposed by Aspect’s researchers will generate a powerful pre-clinical data-package that will position the company to be ready to initiate the first-in-human trials of this kind of therapy.

It’s never been a more exciting time in T1D scientific discovery. JDRF is so pleased to be part of this ground-breaking research and will provide updates on developments as they become available.

Canadian Tire is helping to make Canadian history again

Beginning April 4th, 2022, to honour 100 years since Leonard Thompson received the first successful insulin, injection five volunteers will brave the elements and live atop a 40-foot flagpole for 100 hours to unite Canadians and raise funds for JDRF’s $100 Million Campaign to Accelerate in support of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.

Why a flagpole? In 1990, Peter Oliver, founder of Oliver & Bonacini and Co-Chair of JDRF’s $100 Million Campaign to Accelerate, lived atop a 40-foot-tall flagpole to raise funds and awareness for T1D. Now, 32 years later, JDRF is recreating this unique event.

T1D is a chronic autoimmune condition in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. T1D seems to have a genetic component and can be diagnosed early in life but also in adulthood. Its causes are not fully known, and there is currently no cure. People with T1D are dependent on injected or pumped insulin to survive.

The Let’s Make History Again event is the public launch of the JDRF’s $100 Million Campaign to Accelerate and aims to raise awareness of the effects of this disease while also raising funds to support critical research. In addition, one hundred families from across Canada who are impacted by T1D, known as ‘100 Ambassador of History’, will be camping and fundraising in solidarity with the five people who are living atop the flagpoles, JDRF’s ‘Leaders in History’.

JDRF was thrilled when Canadian Tire joined the Let’s Make History Again event as the Official Gear Partner. 2022 also marks the 100th anniversary of Canadian Tire, so both of our organizations have a lot to celebrate.

“Canadian Tire Corporation is proud to be supporting JDRF and its Let’s Make History Again campaign. We are here to make life in Canada better, and that includes supporting the many people who are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D),” said Susan O’Brien, Chief Brand and Customer Officer, Canadian Tire Corporation.

Canadian Tire is providing significant funding and product support for the event, outfitting each of the Leaders in History, and their flagpole enclosures with clothing, warm bedding, camping gear and all the items they may need to be more comfortable while atop a 40-foot flagpole for 100 hours. The company is also outfitting onsite staff and volunteers with clothing to keep them warm and comfortable.

Additionally, Canadian Tire provided gift cards to each of the 100 Ambassador of History families and teams, as well as cozy and stylish toques. The cards will help the 100 Ambassadors purchase anything they need to camp, as they help raise funds for ground-breaking diabetes research.

2022 marks Canadian Tire’s 100th birthday, along with the 100th anniversary of the first successful insulin injection – two extremely significant milestones in our country’s history. Being around for 100 years – and having retail locations within a 10-minute drive of the vast majority of Canadians – has allowed Canadian Tire to become a trusted part of people’s lives.

“We are a company that prides itself on being deeply engrained in the communities we serve. From giving kids a sporting chance through Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, to helping Canadians face the unexpected together by providing disaster relief efforts when the unexpected happens, we’re proud to help communities across Canada recover. Knowing that a cure for T1D would truly make life in Canada better for thousands of Canadians, this is a cause we are proud to support. With the work that JDRF is doing, we are hopeful that one day Canada will find a cure,” said Susan O’Brien, Chief Brand and Customer Officer, Canadian Tire Corporation.

JDRF is incredibly grateful for Canadian Tire’s support of the Let’s Make History Again event, helping to fund the most cutting-edge research into cures for T1D.

Canadian Tire Corporation is one of Canada’s most admired and trusted companies. With world-class owned brands and exciting market-leading merchandising strategies, Canadian Tire is continually innovating with purpose: to excite and serve Canadian customers from coast-to-coast.

Additional information can be found here.

Dexcom is part of making history again

Approximately 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that destroys the cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin. The discovery of the insulin hormone over 100 years ago meant the first treatment for the disease, whereas previously a diagnosis meant certain death. But a century later, it remains the only treatment.  

On April 4, 2022 to publicly launch JDRF’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate, five brave Canadians will become Leaders in History, as part of JDRF’s Let’s Make History Again fundraising event.

For 100 hours, they will live atop of a flagpole in their respective cities. The event celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first successful injection of insulin, which took place in January 1922. The goal of this flagship fundraising event is for our Leaders – along with supporters across Canada – to raise a collective $15M and get us closer to our goal of a future without T1D.

Dexcom, a longtime supporter of JDRF, once again stepped up to be an event sponsor. The significance of the 100th anniversary was particularly meaningful to the organization, which has been on the forefront of diabetes innovation with their continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology.  The Dexcom G6 CGM System is used by many of the event participants who have T1D.

The body is ever-changing and the factors that affect glucose levels are not necessarily predictable, including sleep, stress, hormones, physical activity, medication, other medical conditions. 

To maintain health and vitality and longevity, keeping glucose levels in range is essential – and this  requires careful monitoring to manage the delicate balance of insulin and those other factors, as they occur.  With other complementary technologies like insulin pumps and advancements with insulin, management of T1D can become easier on individuals and their families.    

How type 1 diabetes management has progressed

Evolution of insulin – People with T1D now have access to both long-acting and short-acting insulins, which can offer a little more flexibility in life.  Before these types of insulins, someone living with T1D would have to keep a repeatable routine with the same amount of insulin, activity, and same proportion of food/carbohydrates at the same time every day.

Glucose monitoring – Before finger prick tests and advanced glucose monitors, one would need to urinate on a stick and could only get a vague idea of whether their glucose was high or low. Early forms of blood glucose meters took a sample of blood, and then one would have to wait to get results – at first a few minutes and then eventually a few seconds. This could still prove difficult, especially for parents with young children. Constant finger pricks were painful, and it was challenging to get a sense of blood sugar trends or to have any idea of time in range.

Now, with glucose sensors – the user can develop a greater understanding of their own glucose trends and make more informed insulin dosing and treating decisions. This also has the benefit of helping to prevent a severe hypoglycemic event – and that is life-changing.  With remote monitoring now also possible (for parents, caregivers & others) through apps like the Dexcom Follow App, it has changed life for the entire family.

Insulin pumps – These pumps used to be approximately the size of a backpack and evolved over time along with insulin and the kind of precision engineering needed to be able to deliver small increments of doses that the individual could control. Now, they are about the size of a cell phone or even smaller, and allow the individual to fine-tune their insulin dosing more precisely for tighter control and easier corrections. With the added capability of being able to decrease or increase basal rates or extend boluses to release over time, the individual has the power to better approximate what a functioning pancreas might do.

Now, with insulin pumps that are integrated with continuous glucose monitoring sensor technology – insulin delivery can be automated to an extent. While active diabetes management is still necessary, the burden on the user is significantly less than it used to be.

In 2022, diabetes technology isn’t just better – quality of life is demonstrably improved with access to these devices. There is less wondering. One can check their glucose levels at a glance and know if it’s time for a snack or rest, or if something else is going on. And the burden on parents is significantly reduced. Before advanced glucose monitors, monitoring was reliant upon a child to track their glucose themselves with a blood glucose meter, recording results in a logbook. Now, with sensors and remote monitoring – parents can see what’s happening on their phone and intervene if necessary for a child’s safety. It improves peace of mind for the entire family. 

For people living with T1D, better disease management is now possible with less effort.  And with better control – one feels better and healthier – and this allows life to open. JDRF’s #AccessForAll campaign aims to make type 1 diabetes (T1D) technology affordable and accessible for everyone living with this disease, by working with the T1D community in their efforts to increase public and private coverage for insulin pumps and advanced glucose monitors (CGM and Flash GM).

Dexcom has always been a strong supporter of JDRF, and we serve the same community of individuals and families grappling with type 1 diabetes.  Many of the Dexcom staff themselves live with the condition, and until there’s a cure – the company aims to make things better with tools to empower people to take control of diabetes.   Research is increasingly promising, and an event like Let’s Make History Again can go a long way in getting attention for this important cause and for the T1D community.

JDRF thanks Dexcom for its significant contribution to our Let’s Make History Again event. It is with the support of important corporate partners that we can fund the most promising T1D research and get closer to our goal of a world one day free from type 1 diabetes. Until that time, advanced diabetes technology makes living with T1D day-to-day easier and better.

To learn more: www.canadacuresdiabetes.ca

Cadillac Fairview helps to make history again

Approximately 300,000 Canadians live with type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that destroys the cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin. The discovery of the insulin hormone over 100 years ago meant the first treatment for the disease, which previously a diagnosis meant certain death. But a century later, it remains the only treatment.

On April 4, 2022 to publicly launch JDRF’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate, five brave Canadians will become Leaders in History, as part of JDRF’s Let’s Make History Again fundraising event.

For 100 hours, they will live atop of a flagpole in their respective cities. The event celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first successful injection of insulin, which took place in January 1922. The goal of this flagship fundraising event is for our Leaders – along with supporters across Canada – to raise a collective $15M and get us closer to our goal of a future without T1D.

Cadillac Fairview (CF) immediately came forward to be the event’s premier partner. We spoke to Sal Iacono, Executive Vice President of Operations at CF about supporting this year’s fundraising event.

What made CF decide to support JDRF Canada and our Let’s Make History Again event?

CF has been a longtime supporter of JDRF for the past 20 years. This year we’re taking our relationship to new heights (literally) by having four CF properties across the country be the site of this exciting, milestone event, and help JDRF raise awareness for an important cause. Together, alongside our longtime partner, Oliver & Bonacini, we are excited to make history with JDRF.

How does your support of this event tie-in to your organization’s social responsibility goals?

At CF, our Purpose of Transforming Communities for a Vibrant Tomorrow is our north star. It’s the reason we exist, and shows up in how we support our people, partners, and communities. We have a strong legacy of supporting our communities, clients and partners and the causes that are important to them to inspire meaningful change. This is a true example of extending our support to our longtime partner, Oliver & Bonacini, by mobilizing impactful change across our national workforce.

Our Leaders in History will be living atop of flagpoles on many of your properties in support of type one diabetes research this April. How have you (or will you) engage your staff team in support of CF’s involvement in LMHA?

We’re proud to support the campaign by hosting the Flagpole 100 Challenge at four CF office towers across Canada. We’ve already started teasing the event internally to excite our teams and we will encourage local CF’ers and those who have supported JDRF for years to come out and show their support in person, if it’s safe to do so.

In addition to hosting the Flagpole 100 Challenge, CF has made a $100,000 donation to JDRF, furthering our ongoing support in the fight to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

What would a cure for type 1 diabetes mean for Canada?

Now more than ever, health is top of mind. This would be an incredible accomplishment to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians to live without complication and empower those affected to live life to the fullest. It would also continue to inspire individuals and communities that together anything can be achieved.

JDRF thanks CF for its significant contribution to our Let’s Make History Again event. It is with the support of important corporate partners like CF that we can find the most promising T1D research and get closer to our goal of finding a cure. To learn more: www.canadacuresdiabetes.ca

International Women’s Day 2022

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 marks International Women’s Day (IWD) around the word. For this year, the theme is #BreakTheBias. The theme challenges us to imagine a gender equal world, that is free from bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. To envision a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive and where difference is valued and celebrated.

JDRF is pleased to rise to the challenge by breaking the bias of science being a primarily male-led field, as we celebrate our all-women research department. JDRF is the leading charitable funder of research into cures and disease modifying therapies for type 1 diabetes (T1D). Helping to shape this research are Drs. Anne Marie MacDonald and Sarah Linklater, our National Manager of Research Programs and Communications and Chief Scientific Officer respectively.

Anne Marie MacDonald has studied throughout the world and holds an undergraduate degree in physiology from McGill University and La Sorbonne (Montreal, Canada and Paris, France), a medical degree from the Jagiellonian University Collegium Medicum (Krakow, Poland) and a Master of Science degree in cancer rehabilitation from the University of Toronto.

Fluently bilingual in English and French, Dr. MacDonald uses her background to advocate for healthy active living and chronic disease self-management. Her career has focused on what she most believes in: supporting Canadians live an active and healthy life, whether through physical activity interventions, digital behavior change programs, or public health advocacy. She lives in Oakville, ON with her husband and young daughter, and when not working she is likely swimming, biking or running, or enjoying a strong coffee with a good book.

Dr. MacDonald understands personally what it means to live with T1D, and this drives her passion for supporting the most promising diabetes research.

“It’s an exciting time in diabetes research– a lot is happening at an accelerated pace, in our very own backyard. I love science and I know type 1 diabetes (I was diagnosed over thirty years ago) and so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with JDRF Canada in an important research role (and on an all-female team!). Now is not the time to watch from the sidelines, and so I’m honored to be able to help the organization reach their goals,” says Dr. MacDonald.

Dr. Sarah Linklater is Chief Scientific Officer of JDRF Canada, where she leads the organization’s research strategy, funding programs and partnerships, and oversees clinical trials and research projects funded by the organization in Canada.

Before joining JDRF Canada in 2019, Sarah worked in scientific and medical publishing in the UK for 11 years, most recently as Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, which she helped to launch in 2013. She obtained her PhD studying immune regulation and gene therapy approaches at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, and at the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy in Milan, Italy.

Dr. Linklater is interested in all things type 1 diabetes, access to insulin around the world, and patient-oriented research. She lives with her husband and two children in Nanaimo, BC.

“JDRF Canada is proud to count so many women among our funded researchers, and especially among our trainees, who will go on to become the next generation of Canadian leaders in T1D research. I am grateful to all of the incredible women mentors I have benefitted throughout my career – now, I’m doing my best to pay it forward. It’s such a privilege to work with JDRF! Each day, I’m motivated by the advances we are driving, the passion of our researchers, and connecting with the T1D community,” says Dr. Linklater.

It’s an exciting time in T1D research, as many new potential disease modifying therapies and cure-based studies are in clinical trials, with the goal of bringing these to market and changing the reality for people living with diabetes. Much of this research may also have impact on other chronic autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and could lead to improved treatment options for type 2 diabetes.

Drs. MacDonald and Linklater are key decision-makers in determining the most promising research to fund, and JDRF is so grateful for their efforts in helping us get closer to our goal of a world free from T1D.

**** To read more about JDRF funded women researchers: https://jdrf.ca/celebrating-our-women-researchers-on-international-womens-day/

Brain Canada and JDRF fund three innovative research projects to address mental health concerns in type 1 diabetes

Last summer, Brain Canada and JDRF officially launched the JDRF Canada – Brain Canada Addressing Mental Health in Type 1 Diabetes Team Grants, a unique program that supports research on interventions that address mental health concerns in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Living with a chronic illness like diabetes is hard. As a result of the burden of diabetes management, people with T1D are at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and diabetes distress, a clinically validated term describing the powerlessness, stress, guilt, relentless worry, and denial that comes with living with diabetes and the burden of self-management. We know that people with T1D who develop mental health disorders, particularly depression and diabetes distress, have a lower quality of life, have worse glycemic control (i.e., higher HbA1c), measure blood glucose less often, suffer more frequent/severe hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis episodes, and are admitted to the hospital more frequently. Conversely, resilience, empowerment, a good support network, and wellness are linked with high quality of life and health outcomes in people with T1D.

Mental health is rarely a central aspect of day-to-day diabetes management and concerns often remain unidentified or unaddressed until they become serious and challenging to manage. Although mental health interventions are known to improve quality of life and outcomes for some people with diabetes, few are regularly implemented in standard care.

The JDRF Canada – Brain Canada Addressing Mental Health in Type 1 Diabetes Team Grants provide up to $250,000 over two years to fund the development and testing of three sustainable, scalable projects which aim to improve support for people in Canada who live with T1D and are affected by mental health disorders. These strategies could translate into better quality of life and diabetes-related health outcomes for people living with T1D.

Learn more about the three projects:

Dr. Tricia Tang

Using a virtual care platform to deliver peer-led mental health support to rural and remote communities in BC: A randomized wait-list controlled trial of the REACHOUT intervention

Dr. Tang and her team at the University of British Columbia will use a virtual care platform to deliver peer-led mental health support to rural and remote communities in BC, through an intervention called REACHOUT, created with support from a previous JDRF grant.

Given the shortage of mental health professionals who are trained in T1D, adults living in rural and remote settings experience the greatest challenge accessing the services they need. This gap in health care is why BC has identified “mental health care” and “rural and remote health care services” as two of the five provincial health care priorities. Dr. Tang’s team will seek to address three challenges of BC’s diabetes care: the availability, affordability, and accessibility of mental health support for adults with T1D living in settings with limited resources.

Peer support has been demonstrated to be a low-cost and viable approach to long-term self-management support. In addition, interventions that use technology (e.g., digital health platforms) have been found to improve mental and emotional health. As such, models that draw on both peer support and digital health strategies may prove promising in reducing health care disparities.

REACHOUT is a Mobile App developed in collaboration with adults with T1D, clinical psychologists, biomedical engineers, behavioural scientists, and rural health experts. REACHOUT uses digital health technology to “drive” mental health support to people living with T1D in the greatest need. If successful, this innovative approach that seeks to reach the “hard-to-reach” can be adapted for kids, teens, adolescents, and young adults with T1D in BC and across Canada.

Dr. Peter Selby

Technology-enabled comprehensive care for young adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D) experiencing diabetes distress

Dr. Selby and his team at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto are bringing experts in mental health and T1D care together with those who have lived experience of T1D to co-develop a solution for diabetes distress that is accessible and acceptable to people with T1D, their caregivers, and health care practitioners. The program is geared towards younger adults between the ages of 18 and 29, a group disproportionately vulnerable to diabetes distress. The patient voice will be central throughout the project, from developing the proposal to developing the solution.

This project adapts proven approaches to managing diabetes distress to a virtual format (using video chat, telephone calls, and text messaging) supported and directed by mental health and T1D experts, thereby capitalizing on the digital literacy of this population and increasing accessibility to treatment. Participants will be invited to participate in the program which will comprise of 8 scheduled sessions, complemented by support from a care coach and/or peers.

The evaluation of the intervention will examine both the feasibility and acceptability of the program as well as its effectiveness in reducing diabetes distress. The impact on diabetes self-care, overall blood glucose levels, and episodes of low blood glucose will also be measured.

JDRF has committed to supporting and creating a holistic framework for mental health treatment and care for all people in Canada living with T1D. Their support for this project is another step in that direction.

Dr. Marie-Eve Robinson

Teaching Adolescents with type 1 diabetes Self-compassion (TADS) to reduce diabetes distress: A randomized controlled trial

Self-compassion is a practice that involves acting the same way towards yourself as you would with friends and loved ones, and that you are kind and understanding towards yourself. Since self-compassion is a skill that can be taught, the team believes that it could be a strategy to improve mental health issues in youth with T1D, like diabetes distress.

The aim of the study is to assess the effectiveness of a mindful self-compassion program on improving the diabetes distress experienced by youth aged 12-17 years with T1D. The mindful self-compassion program will consist of weekly virtual 1.5-hour sessions/workshops for 8 weeks, led by a trained facilitator. It will cover a variety of self-compassion practices, such as dealing with difficult emotions and developing a kind inner voice. The team anticipates that symptoms of anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and suicidal ideation will be lower in the mindful self-compassion group compared to the control group. This study has the potential to lower diabetes distress, the most common mental health problem experienced by youth with T1D, by increasing their self-compassion. Ultimately, the team plans to advocate for the inclusion of such programs in standard care for youth across Canada, thereby directly impacting their mental health and blood sugar control.

The JDRF Canada – Brain Canada Addressing Mental Health in Type 1 Diabetes Team Grants have been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada, and JDRF Canada.

In her own words

Christine MacGibbon: University Student, Former Dancer & Model

Diagnosed: 9 years old

Christine’s journey as a T1D warrior began 24 years ago. This was a pivotal moment for her and her family, as it had an immense emotional and physical toll.

In her personal and professional life, Christine has naturally evolved into an advocate, learning the power of knowledge as a tool to inform and ultimately transform the way we treat and manage diabetes. She believes that health is more than a physical state of being, but rather the sum of the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, financial and social facets of one’s life.

As such, her goal to advocate with JDRF for each and every facet of diabetes in a holistic manner to enhance the quality of life and to be the light for other people living with T1D and their families.

A Letter to my younger self

Dear young Christine,

I know you’re scared and a bit confused. You’re 9 years old and the doctor said to your parents, “it’s positive” and you can feel the tears running down your face. You’ve just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at Sick Kids Hospital and thought you can never have sugar again and will die. You feel like you did something to cause this and are to blame. There are endless needles poking you and the doctors are scary. Little do you know, the girl down the hall in the same Diabetes Education Training Program will become your best friend. Going back to school will be hard. Other kids won’t understand and think you’re making excuses when you need to take snack breaks, check your blood sugar, and miss school. You’ll feel like an outsider and due to insulin, develop earlier. You’ll be bullied, called a “Hippo” in dance class for being bigger than other girls your age. Even though the insulin pump you wear makes you feel sick and different from everyone else, it will be one of your greatest superpowers. I know you want to deny your diagnosis and crash diet because of the pressure to fit in.

At age 15, withholding your insulin to lose weight will lead to diabulimia and eventually complications such as gastroparesis, osteoporosis, kidney stones and vision impairments. Getting coverage for insulin, blood sugar strips and allied health services will be challenging. You’ll face discrimination for being on disability from health systems and workplaces. Your mental health will decline because of the self-stigma of living with diabetes (diabetes burnout). It will be hard finding mental health support due to age requirements, location and waiting lists.

You’ll eventually admit yourself to a psychiatric ward where you’ll finally learn coping mechanisms and get the therapy you need. This will be the best decision of your life and you’ll feel like the superhero you always were, afterwards. Dating is hard because of the stigma, but you will meet someone who becomes your partner-in-crime and helps you realize how beautiful you truly are. Love is a powerful thing.

I want you to know that it’s okay. You are not your disease. You are still loved and capable. As much as you get bullied for your diabetes and feel isolated, you do not have to let the “Diabetes Monster” take over your life. With great power comes great responsibility and in diabetes, insulin, eating nutritious food, and exercise gives you your superpower(s). It takes time to find out how much insulin is right for you and listen to your body. There may be bad days, but never feel like this is your fault. Take it one day at a time. Let your insulin be part of your self-care and routine. This will help you become the superhero in your own life and realize your greatest powers and potential. Get help sooner than later. Diabetes impacts everyone, including your parents and siblings. I wish I knew there were online support groups for parents and children to find a “dia-buddy” and not feel alone. It’s hard for your parents not to be overbearing at times about your diabetes, but know it comes from a place of caring. Diabetes doesn’t have to mean missing out on your childhood and there are ways you can take more control over your diabetes management, so your parents don’t have to feel so anxious 24/7.

You’re not alone and there are many supports out there to help with the physical, mental, and financial stressors of diabetes. These include the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Diabetes Canada, SickKids, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and Mental Health Helpline. Little do you know, among the challenges you have faced on your journey with diabetes, you will rise above and find your voice through being a diabetes advocate. You will realize how powerful you really are. You will enroll in a Bachelor of Health & Society with a minor in psychology at York University and campaign for diabetes mental health supports, accessibility and disease education and prevention.

This will be quite the adventure, little one. Just remember- insulin is your ultimate superpower. Your family will always love you, and do their best to support you. And you will never be alone with your sidekick partner, allied health supports and secret alliance of diabetes superheroes cheering each other on, as we fight one diabetes monster at a time.