How we fund the best diabetes research – by Dr Elizabeth Robertson

Dr Elizabeth Robertson

We want to make sure we fund the best diabetes research with real potential to bring change to people living with the condition. Dr Elizabeth Robertson, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, explains what we’ve got in the pipeline.

Three research goals

A couple years ago, working closely with people with diabetes, healthcare professionals and scientists, we set out to achieve three ambitious research goals.

We said we would improve care and self-management for people living with diabetes today. We said we would find ways to cure diabetes in those who have it now or develop it in the future. And we said we would create strategies to prevent diabetes and its complications before they develop in those at risk.

We’ve been working hard to achieve those goals ever since, and this year we’ve made some real progress .

The whys and hows

Diabetes is the fastest growing condition in the modern world, it’s life-changing and it can have devastating consequences if not safely managed. And at the same time, we still don’t fully understand it.

Recently we heard some shocking news that the presence of European diabetes research in the world arena is falling. So we absolutely have to do more. Not only do we need to see diabetes research receiving the same level of funding as other major conditions, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, but we also need to ensure that this funding directly results in medical advances and a better quality of life for people with diabetes.

We need to increase investment in diabetes research and do more to support the diabetes research leaders of the future: young bright scientists who have real potential to make breakthroughs in diabetes research. But it’s also about the people this research is here to help. We need to give people with diabetes a louder voice in research, and that’s what our latest initiatives are all about.

Louder voice to people

People with diabetes have been helping us to decide what research projects to fund since 2009, when we first established our Grants Advisory Panel. Each time we get new applications from researchers, they let us know which projects are of the highest importance and relevance to people with diabetes.

But that’s not enough. We want to make sure your voice also influences the decisions researchers make in designing new research projects.

People deciding on the top 10 Type 2 questions

A year ago we embarked on a journey to find the top 10 priorities for Type 2 diabetes research, from people who live day to day with the condition, their carers and healthcare professionals. We asked people to share their priorities with us. After an overwhelming response of 8,000 suggestions and a year of working through the results, I’m delighted to say that there’s less than a week left until we will announce of the final Top 10 priorities.

And this isn’t just about Type 2 diabetes. Priorities for Type 1 diabetes were agreed through a similar process back in 2011.

Uniting for a world where diabetes can do no harm

Knowing the priorities of people with diabetes is an important step forward. But we also want to develop clear road-maps for future diabetes research.

So for the first time we have brought together diabetes researchers, healthcare professionals and people living with diabetes to establish the UK’s first Clinical Studies Groups for diabetes.

We know that Clinical Studies Groups (or CSGs for short) can have a real impact on the speed and quality of research. In cancer, for example, CSGs have been running for over 20 years and have had a significant impact on the quality of clinical cancer research in the UK.

We have seven CSGs, each focusing on a specific topic in diabetes: causes of diabetes, prevention and therapies for Type 1 and Type 2, inpatient care, self-management, diabetes complications and diabetes in children. Their main goal is to facilitate the best collaborative clinical research in diabetes.

The groups will work to identify the biggest gaps in our knowledge of diabetes that we should be working to answer. We will build roadmaps for diabetes research that we and other diabetes research funders can follow.

In this way, we can ensure that the best and most crucial diabetes research happens faster and is translated into real change to the lives of people with the condition moving us closer to a world where diabetes can do no harm.

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