Explore JDRF research
Discover where JDRF-funded type 1 diabetes research is taking place across Australia, and learn about our research focus areas.
The latest in Australian type 1 diabetes research: Prevention, precision and progress
JDRF funds research that covers every age and stage of T1D across two key pillars: finding cures and improving lives for those with T1D.
While JDRF’s ultimate goal is to cure T1D, we also aim to make life easier, healthier and happier for those who are currently living with the condition. We also want to prevent it altogether in future generations.
JDRF is uniquely positioned to accelerate scientific progress from every angle, through our extensive and collaborative connections with policy makers, industry, regulatory bodies, diabetes organisations, health care providers and the T1D community.
That is, we not only fund research, but actively move it – strategically – along the translation pipeline to those who need it most.
JDRF’s research funding is prioritised towards two scientific areas: where questions remain, and which projects will deliver the greatest impact for the type 1 diabetes community.
Of those, we break down our goals into three separate sections:
- PREVENTION research, to uncover what triggers T1D in the first place, and to investigate therapies and strategies to stop it before it develops
- PRECISION research, which aims to understand the differences in how T1D develops in people and how they respond to therapies; this will form the basis of precision medicine, which will deliver tailored treatments to those diagnosed with T1D
- PROGRESS research will accelerate a cure for T1D; this includes expanding the number of clinical trials which promise to delay the development of T1D, invest in research focusing on replacing damaged beta cells of the pancreas, and supporting the best and brightest research talent now and into the future.
Example 1: ENDIA
To prevent T1D we first need to understand the cause and early stages of the condition. We know that the rates of T1D can’t be explained by genetics alone, which means that the environment must play a role. That’s why we fund the Environmental Determinants of Islet Autoimmunity (ENDIA) study.
ENDIA is a world-first study that collects information such as exposure to bacteria and viruses, body growth and nutrition, to determine if any of these might contribute to or protect against T1D development. Participants take part from pregnancy, then their children take part as they grow.
Armed with this information, we will continue to test therapies which are able to prevent people at risk from developing T1D in the first place. This could include vaccines against viruses, probiotics or other interventions.
Example 2: National screening program
To prevent T1D, we need to know who is at high risk of developing the condition. We can then provide them with preventive therapies as they become available.
We are already able to detect who is in the pre-symptomatic stages of T1D. But because most people with the condition don’t have a family member with the condition, they only learn about the risk they carry when they finally develop it.
This is why we are supporting the Australian Type 1 Diabetes National Screening Pilot. This pilot tests the best methods to screen children, so their parents will know if they are at risk of developing T1D. Through this pilot, Australia could become one of the first countries in the world do develop a population-wide screen for type 1 diabetes.
T1D develops and progresses differently for each person and there are differences in the way that people respond to treatments. Yet current T1D treatment follows a ‘one size fits all’ approach, with little options for personalisation.
JDRF want to fund research to further understand differences in T1D triggers, development, and treatment responses so that people with T1D can be offered solutions tailored to their individual genes, environment, lifestyle, and personal preferences. This is a concept known as ‘precision medicine’, which has been transformational for other condition such as cancer.
As a leading funder of T1D research, JDRF Australia is taking the lead in this area and leading the charge towards a future where we can provide the right treatment, to the right person, at the right time.
Read more about precision medicine and download JDRF Australia’s published reports at this link.
Example 1: Cell research
Insulin is produced in the beta cells of the pancreas; in people living with T1D, these cells are destroyed by immune attacks. A cure for T1D could be found by regenerating these lost cells or replacing them from a source outside the body. This would allow people with T1D to make their own insulin again. We continue to support a wide variety of projects which focus on novel sources of beta cells from outside the body (animal sources of beta cells, human stem cells, gene therapy), as well as regenerating cells from a person’s own pancreatic tissue. JDRF also funds research that improves how beta cells from outside the body are transplanted into someone with T1D.
Example 2: ATIC trials
JDRF funds the Australasian T1D Immunotherapies Collaborative (ATIC), a globally connected and renowned platform that delivers world-leading clinical trials in Australia. These trials focus on dampening the immune attack seen in T1D. Through ATIC, we will expand the number of trials which promise to delay the progression of the condition. This will allow more Australians with or at risk of developing T1D to access trials.
About the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (T1DCRN)
Clinical research is the critical final step in making new technologies and treatments a reality for Australians living with T1D. The Australian Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (T1DCRN) accelerates this process and encourages collaboration and shared learning on an unprecedented scale.
Supported by the Australian Government and led by JDRF, the T1DCRN connects Australians living with T1D to the latest treatments and technologies, and connects researchers to each other to support and learn from each other.
The program nurtures emerging research leaders through funding and mentoring, which will ultimately help to secure the future of type 1 diabetes research in Australia. The potential of this network to improve the lives of those living with T1D both in Australia and globally, and ultimately find a cure, is remarkable.
The researchers changing the future of type 1 diabetes
JDRF-funded Professors Jenny Couper, Simon Barry and Toby Coates on their research projects and their hopes for the future of T1D.
Our active research projects around Australia
JDRF funds more than 50 active research projects across Australia.
See where JDRF research takes place using our interactive map below. Hover over a state to see the amount of funding in that area or click to see a list of funded research projects.
Interested in keeping up to date with the latest T1D research from JDRF and around the world? Sign up to our Game Changer newsletter here.
Other research projects and more details
One way of potentially curing T1D and restoring the body’s ability to make insulin is by directly targeting the autoimmune attack that causes T1D.
We do this by supporting groundbreaking research of disease-modifying therapies – drugs or other treatments that can change the natural course of T1D.
Our work includes therapies that can help the body regenerate lost beta cells, as well as those that delay the onset of T1D – and have the potential to one day prevent T1D developing at all.
Chemical markers in the blood (autoantibodies) act as signposts of the immune processes taking place in the body.
An autoantibody screening program is a key component of our vision of a world without T1D.
Through screening, we can identify those who will benefit most from disease-modifying therapies that aim to slow onset of T1D, or even prevent it altogether.
Read more about the JDRF-funded nation-wide screening pilot program.
Cell therapies (islet transplants)
We can stop T1D, at least for a short time, by replacing damaged cells in the pancreas with healthy cells from a donor – an islet transplant. Over 100 islet transplants have been performed in Australia to date.
There are challenges that prevent this life-changing procedure from being more widely available: it’s invasive, it requires large numbers of donor cells, and recipients need to take lifelong immunosuppressant drugs. JDRF researchers are working on creative solutions to all of these challenges.
Learn more about islet transplants.
Closed-loop systems revolutionise T1D treatment by acting like an artificial pancreas, continuously monitoring blood glucose levels and delivering precise amounts of insulin when it is needed.
JDRF researchers are working on the next generation of closed-loop systems, as well as running several large clinical trials assessing how closed-loop technology affects different groups of people with T1D.
Learn more about closed-loop technology.
T1D has wide-reaching effects on the body. The majority of people living with T1D will develop additional health problems in their lifetime, predominantly affecting the kidneys, eyes, heart or nervous system.
Our focus is on finding new ways of treating or preventing the most common complications, like kidney and eye disease, to ensure that people with T1D live long and healthy lives.
Learn more about T1D complications.