A vaccine for type 1 diabetes could be developed ‘within a generation’, according to researchers leading four new UK-based studies.
The £4.4 million Diabetes UK research project, co-funded by JDRF (£1.1m) and with support from Tesco (over £3.3m), could produce the first working vaccines within the next 10 years. As well as helping to delay or even prevent type 1 in those at high risk, these vaccines would also be an important step towards a cure for the condition, working in harmony with other treatments to reduce damage to insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
In the first of the new studies, Professor Mark Peakman at King’s College London will lead the UK’s first ever trial of a prototype vaccine in children and teenagers living with or at high risk of type 1. Alongside him, Professor Colin Dayan at Cardiff University will develop a UK-wide network to allow more immunotherapy trials to take place in UK hospitals – and to train the young doctors and researchers who will lead them.
In addition, Professor Desmond Johnston of Imperial College London will continue work to identify people newly diagnosed with type 1 so that more people with the condition can be offered the opportunity to take part in clinical trials.
Finally, Dr Tim Tree, also at King’s College London, will set up a UK-wide network of specialist laboratories to study the impact of immunotherapy trials, investigating how different treatments work and determining if it is possible to predict who will benefit most from each treatment.
Professor Dayan said, “This funding has already led to a bold new collaboration between UK diabetes scientists and will provide an immense boost for this field as we work towards new clinical trials and a step change in our ability to halt the loss of insulin in type 1 diabetes. Within a year or two we will see many more children and adults taking part in this research. Within four years we expect to see results from studies of more than six potential treatments and within ten years we hope to see the first vaccine therapies delivered to patients in the clinic.”
Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF, said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with Diabetes UK on this important research. A child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five faces up to 19,000 injections and 50,000 finger pricks by the time they are 18. Our major search for a vaccine takes place within a global push, by some of the world’s very best scientists, to consign this life-threatening condition to history.”
Dr Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK’s Director of Research, said: “This research is hugely exciting because it has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living with type 1 diabetes, as well as leading us towards a longed-for cure.
“We know that none of this will be easy or happen overnight. The first vaccines will probably help people to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes rather than preventing it entirely. But even this would help to reduce the risk of serious complications. In the longer term, a fully effective vaccine would represent a huge medical breakthrough and could transform the lives of people with type 1.”
Rebecca Shelley, Corporate Affairs Director for Tesco, said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to all the Tesco customers and colleagues who raised money for Diabetes UK – it is their hard work that has helped make this happen.”
Since JDRF was established over 40 years ago we have funded more than £1 billion of research worldwide. Find out more about the projects we fund here.