Really smart people doing really smart things...TOGETHER!
That's pretty much how I sum up the newest efforts to jumpstart diabetes research through a collaborative approach to making it more effective for the entire D-Community -- from those of us on the patient side, to the researchers and innovators and everyone in between.
Here's the scoop:
On Nov. 1, a non-profit called Unitio got its official launch as the new umbrella organization presiding over the T1DExchange national type 1 registry and its MyGlu online social network platform. What began about three years ago with grant funding from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helsmley Charitable Trust has now become a self-sustaining non-profit all on its own, keeping up and growing these two core programs, but also expanding into other diabetes areas and disease states.
Unitio is a unique new model focusing on tapping patient communities to speed research and development of new treatments. It is non-disease-specific despite having begun with diabetes. In their own words, the org is working to create "a real-world, patient data platform designed to accelerate all aspects of drug and device development via an integrated system of people and institutions already working hard to decode different parts of complex diseases."
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Fellow type 1 Bill Woods, who works as community manager for the Glu site, explains: "We've already made so much progress in type 1 diabetes that we wanted to share this model with other disease states to help accelerate innovation."
A few weeks ago we heard at the Sanofi-sponsored Partners In Patient Health summit that T1DExchange would be working to create a type 2-specific national registry, similar to what has been created for the type 1 research world. We're thrilled to hear that. Hats off to them for this hugely ambitious project (remember, there are 90% more type 2s out there). And great to see cross-collaboration with Crohn's, Autism, and other health care communities across the research, clinical, patient and organizational sides!
Just this week, Glu is actually celebrating its official one-year anniversary, and Bill and his team have compiled a fun video to share what they've accomplished... from 7,000+ members to 134,000+ answers to various diabetes questions asked. Check it out:
So, just what kind of research is on the docket?
The launch announcement also revealed that JDRF awarded Unitio a $2.8 million grant that will allow T1DExchange to study effects of the traditional type 2 oral drug metformin in overweight teenagers with type 1. While metformin is a first-line treatment for type 2 PWDs, its impact on those with type 1 is largely unknown. This isn't the first time we've heard about its use by type 1s; we wrote about that back in 2010. But this research will offer the first scientific evidence to begin answering questions about the potential benefits of metformin for those dependent on insulin. During a six-month study, at least 136 type 1 teens will be enrolled to either be put on the med in combination with their standard insulin therapy, or take a placebo, and their dosing and BG results will be followed closely. A second study will also be going on simultaneously, examining whether metformin improves insulin sensitivity in type 1's.
This is especially cool because it has traditionally been difficult to get funding and support for this kind of "specialized" research, where results only affect a relatively small number of patients (i.e. a small market).
Meanwhile, JDRF and T1DExchange are also involved in another exciting D-Research venture designed to help boost the development of diabetes innovations (up our alley!). News came in mid-October that JDRF and T1DExchange, along with Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, are teaming up with Boston-based biotech development firm PureTech Ventures to create a new startup incubator called T1D Innovations.
JDRF is contributing $5 million to the venture program, which will create and fund companies developing innovative therapies for type 1 and help potential new drugs move rapidly from the lab to the clinic -- or to market, as appropriate. Specifically, T1D Innovations will focus on those therapies that "help restore or maintain glycemic control or have the potential of restoring normal physiology for PWDs." Woot!
We can't tell you how excited we are to see the creation and funding of programs to support high-impact companies developing innovative T1D-related therapies, enabling them to cross the well-known biomedical "valley of death" -- the notorious gap that often prevents promising biomedical discoveries from being translated into patient-saving products. (Notice the reference to "valley of life" in their logo ;) )
We can't wait to see what comes from both Unitio and T1D Innovations, and how these and other new collaborations can bring valuable research and innovations to reality.
It's truly amazing to think how far we've come since the early days of the DOC (diabetes online community) -- waaaay back in 2005, when this blog was established, and the term "innovation" was rarely spoken in the same sentence with "diabetes."