JDRF Top Research Advances

Posted by: Justin Pyles - December 1, 2016

Since the partnership between JDRF and Delta Tau Delta began in 2012, there have been significant advances in type 1 diabetes (T1D) therapies. These advances are bringing us closer to a cure and universal prevention of T1D and improving how people live with the disease. It is thanks to the support of our partners, like Delta Tau Delta, that JDRF has been able to move this life-changing research forward. Here are just a few of the top, recent JDRF-supported advances that have helped make this a pivotal moment in the history of T1D research.


The JDRF Encapsulation Program funds development of cell replacement therapies that can be implanted to provide long-term relief from insulin dosing without the need for immune suppression.


In October 2014, JDRF industry partner ViaCyte launched a human clinical trial of its groundbreaking encapsulated cell therapy for treatment of T1D. The study marks the first-ever clinical evaluation of a stem-cell-derived islet replacement therapy. Once implanted, the encapsulated islet progenitor cells should develop over time into islets with the potential to restore normal insulin function in people with T1D. At least four volunteers with T1D have received VC-01, the company’s experimental implant, to date.

Artificial Pancreas

The JDRF Artificial Pancreas (AP) Program supports the development of novel technologies that deliver more effective and precise insulin therapy. These automated systems will provide tighter control of blood-sugar levels and significantly reduce the need for frequent glucose testing and manual insulin dosing.

Medtronic’s MiniMed 670G pushes the AP timeline

In early 2015, Medtronic announced plans to bring to market the first hybrid system with the ability to automatically start and stop insulin delivery based on predicted blood-sugar levels. This hybrid closed-loop system will still require meal bolusing, but it will make life easier by automatically adjusting insulin delivery 24 hours a day, reducing the occurrence of hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic events. Medtronic announced that the MiniMed 670G would most likely be available in debut markets in 2017.

Glucose Control

The JDRF Glucose Control Program supports the development of novel insulin formulations and drugs that can be used in conjunction with insulin therapy to provide better control of blood-sugar levels. JDRF-support researcher Danny Chou, Ph.D., at the University of Utah made progress in developing a glucose responsive insulin that self-activates when blood sugar begins to rise. This glucose responsive insulin is being designed for delivery through a non-invasive system and could require only a single daily dose, giving people with T1D a more convenient, effective and safer form of administered insulin.


JDRF is exploring ways to restore the body’s ability to produce insulin while preventing the autoimmune attack that triggers T1D and causes the destruction of new beta cells. Verapamil, a generic drug, shows promise in saving beta cells. A JDRF-supported human clinical trial testing whether the common blood pressure drug verapamil can improve beta cell health and survival began in February 2015 at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The study is part of JDRF’s strategy to speed development of new T1D therapies by repurposing drugs that are already FDA-approved for other indications. The trial participants will receive either verapamil or a placebo for one year while continuing insulin pump therapy, and researchers will track their blood-sugar control and C-peptide levels to measure any impact on beta cell numbers and related insulin production.


The JDRF Prevention Program aims to keep individuals from ever developing T1D. JDRF-funded researchers at Harvard, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, and in Finland, published a study in the February issue of Cell, Host and Microbe identifying a link between changes in gut bacteria and the onset of T1D. They found that in some young children a change in normal intestinal bacteria can occur a year before T1D diagnosis. This discovery could lead to an early diagnostic test for T1D and development of therapies that prevent the development of symptomatic T1D.


The JDRF Complications Program supports the development of therapies and prognostic tools that help prevent, treat or reverse diabetes-related eye and kidney diseases. JDRF industry partner KalVista received FDA approval in late summer 2014 to begin a phase 1 human clinical trial of its experimental drug for treatment for diabetic eye disease. The ongoing trial is staggering enrollment of 17 volunteers who are receiving three intravitreal injections of KalVista’s novel drug candidate over a roughly three-month period in an effort to slow the progression of diabetic eye disease.

For more information on JDRF-funded research projects aimed at curing, preventing and treating T1D, please visit jdrf.org.