JDRF and CIHR Announce Recipients of New Grants to Accelerate Type 1 Diabetes Research

To mark November’s National Diabetes Awareness Month, JDRF is excited to announce a new investment of $7 million to support four Canadian research teams as part of the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes. These grants will help to accelerate development of stem cell-based therapies for type 1 diabetes (T1D), improve pediatric diabetes research across Canada, as well as our understanding of variations in human insulin production.

This funding announcement is part of the Team Grants in Diabetes Mechanisms and Translational Solutions competition announced by CIHR, an investment of $20M in 10 research projects. Diabetes Canada, Kidney Foundation of Canada, and the FRQS have also received funding as part of this competition, as all work together to improve health outcomes for Canadians.

The funded researchers, including those funded through the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes will work to develop new approaches to preventing, treating, and delivering care to people living with diabetes. Researchers will also work with patient partners—people with lived experience of diabetes—to ensure that the research being conducted is relevant and valuable to the people and families who are affected.

JDRF is matching the $3.5 million investment from CIHR for a total of $7 million to fund four research teams – doubling the impact on T1D research. As we honour the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, this investment will help fuel promising research that will move us beyond insulin towards cures.

“JDRF is proud to partner with CIHR to accelerate research into a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). This year we commemorate 100 years of insulin and recognize the need to move beyond insulin therapy for as many as 300,000 Canadians currently living with T1D. This research will reduce the impact and burden on people affected by the disease, and help us achieve our ultimate goal, a world free from T1D. We are grateful to our community and donors for enabling our $3.5 million investment that will be matched by CIHR to help us attain this goal.”

Dave Prowten, President and CEO, JDRF Canada

The JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes is a landmark collaboration between the Government of Canada, through CIHR, that began in 2017 with a $15M investment that was matched by JDRF to support transformative T1D research. This unique partnership ensures that T1D remains a priority in Canadian health research and is based on a shared vision of improved care, treatment, outcomes and cures for those living with the disease. 

Since its inception, this partnership has funded several innovative clinical trials and translational research projects with a view to accelerating the development of novel treatment approaches for people with T1D, in addition to cures for the disease.  

These new cutting-edge projects promise to further push forward JDRF’s mission of improving lives and finding cures. 

A deep phenotyping network for understanding human islet variation in health and diabetes

Dr. Patrick MacDonald, Nominated Principal Investigator: Canada Research Chair; University of Alberta, along with his team: Dr. James D. Johnson, (University of British Columbia) Dr. Jennifer Bruin, (Carleton University) and Dr. Jianguo (Jeff) Xia, (McGill University).


Insulin is the primary hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. It is produced by the pancreatic islets of Langerhans, rises after a meal to promote energy storage, and falls during fasting to allow energy mobilization. The levels of insulin in the blood vary tremendously amongst people. Nutrition, age, sex, genetics, and environmental exposures are all important factors likely to impact insulin levels. However, the underlying mechanisms by which these factors affect islet insulin production at the cellular level are not clear.  

This team seeks to understand the variability in human islet function in relation to genetic and environmental impacts on diabetes risk and to identify mechanisms of islet dysfunction in diabetes. To do this they will take advantage of extensive data on the molecular, cellular, and physiological function of islets from human organ donors. They will also produce tools and resources so that other researchers can explore this data to answer their own questions about islet dysfunction in diabetes. 

Building CAPACIty for pediatric diabetes research and quality improvement across Canada 

Dr. Shazhan Amed, Nominated Principal Investigator: B.C Children’s Hospital, along with her team:
Dr. Meranda Nakhla, (Montreal Children’s Hospital; McGill University), Dr. Julia von Oettingen, (Montreal Children’s Hospital; McGill University) and Dr. Ian Zenlea, (Trillium Health Partners; University of Toronto).


Although there have been many advances in diabetes care since insulin was discovered 100 years ago, youth with diabetes continue to have a higher risk of other health problems, a lower quality of life, and a shorter life span than their peers without diabetes. This health gap is likely in part due to suboptimal access to and delivery of their diabetes care, which is worse in disadvantaged populations across Canada. This project will develop strategies to address these gaps.  

The CAnadian PediAtric diabetes ConsortIum (CAPACIty) is a network of 15 childhood diabetes centers from across Canada. They are partnering with patients/families and health care professionals to jointly design and develop a Canada-wide childhood diabetes registry and research platform. The registry will enable them to improve diabetes care and health outcomes for Canadian youth through comparison of diabetes care quality and outcomes between Canadian diabetes centers, quality improvement initiatives, patient-informed research initiatives across Canada, and successful advocacy work.  

They anticipate that the CAPACIty registry will not only lead to better health outcomes but also serve as a powerful tool for governments and decision-makers to implement policy decisions that are driven by our data. Lastly, the patient advisory board will ensure better representation of youth with diabetes and their parents among provincial and national associations that advocate for people living with diabetes. 

This is the first announcement of two of four grants total. The second two grants will be announced later this winter. 

For more information on the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes please visit: https://jdrf.ca/research/jdrf-cihr-funded-projects/ 

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