Proof of Concept & Innovation Projects

Through the first phase of the T1DCRN, nine proof of concept projects were funded through the Pilot and Feasibility Grant Scheme to test the feasibility of innovative ideas from Australian researchers. As part of the second phase of the T1DCRN, three highly innovative projects and two smaller seed contract funding projects were funded.

The T1DCRN supports new and promising ideas in type 1 diabetes clinical research to drive the growth of revolutionary concepts.

The Innovation Award grants will explore new directions in the search for a cure for type 1 diabetes, including concepts that have never before been investigated.

A/Prof Charmaine Simeonovic, Australian National University ACT
This study offers a new angle to the understanding of how insulin producing beta cells are damaged during T1D development. The team will evaluate the role of white blood cells called neutrophils and their interactions with other blood components called platelets. These cells interact to form platelet-neutrophil complexes, and it is proposed that they might play a role in activating the beta cell damage that leads to T1D. This concept has never been investigated in T1D before. By improving our understanding about how beta cells are damaged, we can more effectively develop new drugs that target these destructive processes and block the progression of T1D disease.

A/Prof Stuart Mannering, St Vincent’s Institute VIC
Immune cells called T cells have been found at the ‘scene of the crime’ in the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas of people with T1D. While we know that T cells have a role in the immune response to beta cells, we still don’t know exactly what is stimulating this response. This team was the first in the world to isolate specialised T cells from the pancreas, due to the sacrifice of people with T1D who donated their organs to research. This study will use the same donors to discover exactly what these immune cells “see” that leads to beta cell destruction. This new knowledge of the exact targets on beta cells could then be used to develop new therapies that turn off the autoimmune response leading to T1D.

A/Prof Shane Grey, Garvan Institute of Medical Research NSW
Zebrafish are often used in medical research due to their incredible ability to regenerate. This team will for the first time look for ways to promote the regeneration or repair of the remaining beta cells in people with T1D. Zebrafish have been found to have a subset of immune cells (“islet helper” Tregs) that produce beta cell growth factors and enable repair and regeneration of islets after damage. It is thought that a similar subset of cells may exist in humans. Using cutting edge zebrafish and mouse studies, they will uncover the function of these cells and test their potential in repairing islet damage. This study has potential to discover new therapeutic agents in regeneration as well as generate knowledge that may assist with increasing tolerance to islet transplants.

Dr Vincent Ho, University of Western Sydney NSW
This project will be investigating the use of a new endoscopic device for the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis – which is a vexing clinical problem.

Prof Peter Thorn, University of Sydney NSW
This project will determine new concepts in how blood vessels and arrangement of beta cells in the pancreas influence cellular structure and function.

NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, Sydney
This project will lead to the development of new tools and procedures that could be used to detect the loss of insulin-producing beta cells from an early stage. In doing so, it may allow the use of interventional therapies to preserve remaining beta cell function in people with type 1 diabetes.

University of Technology, Sydney
This project follows a small-scale service model to provide specialist care to insulin pump users in regional and rural NSW.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne
This project aims to understand the impact of fluctuating blood glucose levels on brain function. In doing so, the results obtained from this study will guide clinical management of type 1 diabetes in improving overall quality of life and developmental outcomes in young patients.

Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney
This project will use advanced approaches to generate a map of the genetic changes in islets during the stress of transplantation. This will generate new data which may result in new therapies to improve the function of transplanted islets and provide potential markers to track this function.

Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne
By investigating the role of the power-houses of cells in the kidneys of people with type 1 diabetes, this study may lead to the development of new targets to treat kidney disease.

The University of Sydney
This study will determine if an online educational tool in type 1 diabetes and exercise is able to improve outcomes for people with type 1 diabetes, thus creating an evidence base related to blood glucose stability around exercise and confidence to exercise.

Centre for Eye Research Australia, Melbourne
This study will provide insight into whether vitamin C can affect blood flow in the eye during episodes of high blood sugar. In doing so, it has the potential to develop into a larger clinical trial to use vitamin C to reduce the risk of diabetic complications.

Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Using an artificial intelligence-inspired system, this project aims to enhance the usage of the artificial pancreas, bringing us one step closer to a true ‘closed-loop’ system.

The Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, and The University of Western Australia
This project will begin to collect and connect bio samples to the ADDN database. This connection will help with understanding disease mechanisms and connecting immunological, genetic and other biomarkers with clinical symptoms.