JDRF Funded Projects

This unique partnership ensures that type 1 diabetes (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 T1D.

In 2017, JDRF partnered with the Government of Canada, announcing a new $30 million Partnership to Defeat Diabetes. Through this landmark partnership, JDRF and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) each committed $15 million to jointly fund research to improve the quality of life for Canadians living with T1D and drive efforts to cure the disease.

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 T1D. By leveraging funds from multiple sources and combining the strengths and expertise of two funders, the partnership increases the speed at which novel research is conducted – all with one ultimate goal in mind – turning type 1 into type none.

Since its inception in 2017, the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes has funded several innovative clinical trials and translational research projects aimed at accelerating the development of novel treatment approaches for people with T1D, in addition to cures for the disease.

The JDRF-CIHR Partnership is currently supporting the following projects:

Clinical Trials
Translational Research Projects

Clinical Trials

Using New Therapies and Interactive Technologies to Reduce Hypoglycemic Risk

The BETTER (BEhaviors, Therapies, TEchnologies and hypoglycemic Risk in Type 1 pediabetes) project is focused on measuring and reducing hypoglycemia in people with T1D. Hypoglycemia is common and one of the greatest fears in people living with the disease. It is defined by low blood glucose with symptoms such as trembling, sweating, confusion, and dizziness. Hypoglycemia and fear of hypoglycemia are the main barriers to optimal T1D management and can have a profoundly negative impact on quality of life.

Dr. Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret and his team at Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) have developed a registry of people with T1D to better identify the needs and realities related to the disease. As of March, 2021 the registry included more than 1500 people with T1D. They are also conducting several small trials testing new approaches for hypoglycemia treatment.

Improving Glucose Control and Preventing Complications in Adolescents with T1D 

Adolescence and early adulthood are when people with T1D often have the greatest challenges with glycemic control, making them vulnerable to complications. This is due to numerous factors such as physiologic changes (growth and puberty) that make individuals less sensitive to insulin, as well as psychological, social, and developmental changes.

Dr. Farid Mahmud, a pediatric endocrinologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, is leading a clinical trial that is testing the effects of dapagliflozin (a drug currently approved for use in type 2 diabetes and known for its metabolic and health benefits) added to insulin therapy in adolescents and young adults with T1D who are at a higher risk of developing complications, such as kidney and heart disease. Dapagliflozin reduces the amount of glucose the kidneys reabsorb into the blood, thereby allowing more to pass through the urine, improving glucose control.

Improving Outcomes for Persons with T1D using a Novel Virtual Care Platform 

Self-management is the cornerstone of T1D therapy. However, optimal self-management is time-consuming, requiring constant vigilance and fitting in frequent visits to the clinic.

Dr. Gillian Booth, a JDRF-funded scientist at the Centre for Urban Health Solutions within the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, is exploring a new approach to T1D care in the Type 1 Diabetes Virtual Self-Management Education and Support (T1ME) trial.

In this trial, Dr. Booth and her team are testing whether a new digital platform that optimizes the way health care is delivered to people with T1D can improve glucose control and patient experiences. The platform has been developed in consultation with people living with T1D and includes a “virtual library” about T1D management.

Translational Research Projects

Gaining Insights into the Causes of T1D by Studying the Gut Microbiome 

New cases of T1D are on the rise, and there is little doubt that our environment plays a role. The gut microbiome – the complex community of bacteria that live in the intestine – has emerged as a potentially important factor in determining risk of T1D.

In this project, Jayne Danska of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto is leading a multidisciplinary team that will examine how different microbes protect from or potentiate T1D, what these microbes do in developing infants, which will inform development of new therapeutics that prevent or treat the disease – advancing towards cures.

Unravelling the Immunology of T1D to Uncover New Avenues to Cure 

In this Team Grant, Megan Levings of the University of British Columbia (UBC) and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Vancouver brings together an all-star cast of Canadian T1D researchers to undertake studies that address questions including: what are the essential immune regulatory networks that become compromised in people with T1D? How can we restore these networks to stimulate beta cell regeneration and cure T1D?

By leveraging existing world-class infrastructure for studying the immune system, the team is collecting and studying samples from dozens of people with T1D, as well as people at risk of T1D, to identify the breaches in normal immune regulation that cause the disease. In parallel, the team will also explore new approaches for immune cell therapies that could cure the disease.

Cell Replacement Therapy Without Immunosuppression

Islet transplantation could help T1D patients regain control of blood sugar levels, making this an alternative to insulin injections as the only existing treatment. However, donor scarcity, poor islet survival after transplant, the need to optimize the transplant site and the need for life-long immunosuppression to prevent transplant rejection means this treatment is only accessible to a handful of people with T1D.

Maria Cristina Nostro of the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at University Health Network and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and her team are developing new transplantation strategies and universal donor stem cells to develop a superior islet-like product for people with T1D that will require little or no immunosuppression.

Dr. Nostro’s team will leverage their expertise in stem cell biology, vascular biology, islet transplantation and beta cell biology to address these challenges and work to develop a safe and effective clinical-grade product for therapy. The outcome from these studies will accelerate universal donor stem cell-based T1D therapies.

Scaling up and Refining a Designer Cell Replacement Product

Today, creating insulin-producing cells from human stem cells is labour-intensive and costly work. To make cell replacement therapy accessible to a larger number of people with T1D in the future, new tools and cell manufacturing methods are needed. In addition, fine-tuning of cell replacement products is needed to ensure they mimic the function of the healthy pancreas.

Francis Lynn of the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Research Institute has assembled a team that will combine expertise in single-cell technologies, genome editing, immunology, and stem cell and islet biology to produce a new and improved cell source for cell replacement therapy for T1D. Ideally, the new cell source will be ready for clinical trial testing in a few years.

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.

Meet the researchers behind these exciting projects.