Working Toward a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes: An Interview with the Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance

The Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance (JDCA) strives to achieve the goal of having a practical cure for type 1 diabetes available within the next 15 years.

In order to achieve this goal, the JDCA looks into hundreds of diabetes research projects and supports those that meet certain criteria.

We interviewed Phil Shaw, general manager at the JDCA, about these Practical Cure Projects and how the organization plans to achieve its goal.

On the JDCA website, there is a section for 'Practical Cure Projects.' Can you explain what these are and what separates them from other diabetes research projects?

The Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance's purpose is to advocate for a practical cure for type 1 diabetes to be available in time to make a genuine impact on the quality of life for people currently living with type 1. The two key distinguishing aspects of our purpose are the concept of a Practical Cure and the time-frame goal. The Practical Cure is a term coined by the JDCA to mean any solution that provides a near-normal lifestyle free from daily monitoring, measuring or worry of lows and highs. It is inherently practical in the sense that it may not be a perfect reversal of the disease but could be a super-treatment or disease-management regimen that removes many of the headaches, heartache and risks currently associated with type 1 diabetes. We often say that we are outcome- (rather than input-) focused in the sense that most scientists look at a cure from the narrow lens of their expertise. A practical cure could come from many different research pathways. Our aim is to see more research and resources allocated toward this objective. The second distinguishing aspect of our purpose is that we are committed to finding solutions that are distinctly near-term and can make a difference in time for the generation living with disease today. In our travels, we encounter far too many examples of promising near-term projects being delayed because financing and resources are being broadly shared with projects operating on a much longer term time horizon.

So, to answer the question, the JDCA actively tracks all type 1 diabetes research projects that are entering or are about to enter human trials in order to identify the ones that have potential to deliver or evolve to a Practical Cure. While we may be mindful of projects that are still in early animal testing or on the bench, we tend not to actively track and cover them until they are in or about to be in human testing. All projects will pass through human trials before FDA-approval, so this provides a natural success measure and, in the process of going through human trials, all the results and mechanics are communicated openly. Furthermore, we continue to believe that the best chance for a near-term practical cure will come from projects entering or in human trials, given the 7-10 years it takes even a highly successful project to move through human trials to FDA-approval.

At the end of October, we will publish a report titled “State of the Cure 2014” which will update the list of Practical Cure projects currently in or about to start human trials. While we are not yet finished with the review, I expect the number of projects to be less than 10. With 360 or so projects currently registered as type 1 research trials, 10, in our view, is not enough.

Which projects appear to be the most promising?

While we certainly have our personal opinions about which projects are more likely to succeed than others, we have all been at it long enough to have some things that looked very promising fail, and other things that we did not think would do well deliver strong clinical results. As an organization, we try to be supportive of all projects that meet the Practical Cure criteria until we have conclusive clinical results. If the results are negative or extensively delayed, we will remove the project during our twice-per-year review. I expect that some projects on the list will be removed while some new ones will be added.

What do you think needs to happen in order to have a practical cure for type 1 diabetes available within the next 15 years?

The primary thing that I would like to see is a major initiative adopted by the JDRF, the ADA and other research centers to seek out, identify and prioritize Practical Cure research. The language is not what is important here but, rather, the concept that near-term cure research receives a significant and dedicated focus.

The T1D community can support this by requesting a practical cure, by specifying that they would like their donation to be used for a practical cure, and even just by asking key questions like "How is my donation being used?" and "How was my donation used?"

Click here to learn more about the Practical Cure Projects on the JDCA website.

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