JDRF recently announced an exciting new research partnership with Cambridge-based biotechnology company Arecor. In this blog post, Rachel Connor, Director of Research Partnerships at JDRF UK explains why JDRF and Arecor are working together, and how working with industry fits into JDRF's work to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes.
Fuding research to to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes
JDRF was founded by families affected by type 1 diabetes to fund research to make life with type 1 better until we find the cure for this life-threatening, life-limiting autoimmune condition. One way to make life better with type 1 diabetes is to make maintaining tight glucose control easier. At the moment people with type 1 diabetes have to manage their blood glucose levels through a laborious process of fingerprick glucose testing, carb counting and insulin injections. This gets even more complex when you consider that exercise, illness, stress and even the weather can have a major impact on how your body uses insulin.
Insulin pump technology has been developed to help make getting the right amount of insulin into the body more closely mimic the biological process that usually controls glucose levels in the body. But while adoption of the technology is growing (despite patchy implementation of positive NICE guidance), we know that the physical size of insulin pumps can be off-putting to many people who might potentially benefit from the technology. One of the reasons that pumps are the size they are (about the size of a pack of cards) is because of the size of the vial of insulin that they need to accommodate. So JDRF has teamed up with biotechnology company Arecor to develop a more concentrated form of insulin that would allow insulin pumps to shrink in size and hopefully break down barriers to their use.
Currently, concentrated insulin is too slow-acting when placed in the human body. But with JDRF's support Arecor Ltd will use its expertise and resources to perfect a concentrated insulin that acts at the same speed as currently available rapid-acting insulins for people with type 1 diabetes. We hope the dosing volume could be reduced five to 10-fold. The new partnership will see Arecor Ltd and JDRF working closely together, with JDRF providing up to £680,000 over 12 months.
Funding research wherever it is found
So why is JDRF, a charity, working with a company? It’s actually very simple - they may have a solution to a problem that we are seeking to solve, but need help to get the project to the next stage of its development.
At JDRF the goal is to speed the development of products that will change the lives of people with type 1, and to that end we have a well-defined research strategy with clearly set out research objectives. So we work with the people, organisations and technologies that are most likely to bring that about, no matter whether they come from academia, industry or other charities. We will only invest in ideas that we believe are the best use of our supporters' generous donations, and that have the scientific credibility to justify pursuit - the same high standards to which we hold our academic research award recipients apply to our corporate partners. Payments are milestone-based and projects are monitored closely by our expert research team throughout their duration.
We have been using this strategy of working with companies for many years now, and we know that a well-placed JDRF investment can speed a promising idea through the development pipeline, because our knowledge and expertise in type 1 diabetes gives other investors the confidence to follow our lead and take a second look at an idea that might have been deemed too risky to take forward without our backing.
We are hopeful that our partnership with Arecor will be another in a long line of successful, impactful research partnerships with industry.