Roadmap to a T1D Practical Cure

What will it take for us to see a Practical Cure within the next 15 years? Is it even possible? This report will address both questions.

A Practical Cure (sometimes referred to as a "functional cure") for type 1 diabetes is any solution that will eliminate the daily burden of living with the disease. While it may not fully reverse the disease, a Practical Cure will allow people with T1D to feel that their life quality and longevity are not compromised. When we survey people about their interest in a Practical Cure – which we've done annually over the past ten years – the responses indicate that people with T1D overwhelmingly want this path of research to be a top priority.

Yet, only 2% of T1D human trials in the FDA pipeline are potential Practical Cure projects. Given this lack of late-stage research, is it possible to see a Practical Cure within our lifetime?

The quick answer: There is a chance to see a Practical Cure in the next 15 years, but it will require a major paradigm shift in how the players in T1D research – including non-profits, researchers, and commercial enterprises – allocate resources. The following four recommendations are a blueprint to make that paradigm shift.

1) Make a T1D Practical Cure Job #1

Establishing a T1D Practical Cure as one of the primary goals of the research community will ensure that it receives sufficient funding and focus. To date, neither the scientific community nor the major diabetes not-for-profit organizations have established a Practical Cure as a top priority. We urge boards of directors and executives to make this change.

2) Award Big Incentives for Practical Cure Progress

Two great motivators of performance are peer recognition and financial remuneration. Both can and should be used to encourage our T1D leaders to aggressively pursue Practical Cure progress. When we achieve real steps forward, those involved should be rewarded in compensation and professional recognition for their success.

The practical impact of this approach is that leaders will become more proactive in soliciting, funding, and prioritizing Practical Cure research projects. Nonprofit CEOs, principal investigators, and the staff within grant-giving organizations would then align their workflow and performance expectations to the goal of accelerating a Practical Cure.

3) Restore T1D Research Funding

T1D research grant funding has been steadily declining at JDRF and the ADA over the past few decades. In 2020, research grant funding dropped to a 20 year-low at both organizations. JDRF used $0.33 cents of every donated dollar to fund $69 million in research grants in the 2020 fiscal year. ADA, meanwhile, funded just $1.8 million in T1D research grants, or $0.02 of every donated dollar.

Reversing this decline is essential to accelerating progress towards a Practical Cure. Further, restoring research funding will align the not-for-profit organizations with their donor base, whose top priority is finding a cure.

4) Speak Up!

As the primary source of income for the main diabetes charities, donors play a key role in ensuring that a Practical Cure research platform is a top priority. Ongoing pressure from donors like you to adopt, institutionalize, fund, and fully resource Practical Cure research is critical to the development of a Practical Cure in the next 15 years. Tell your local diabetes nonprofit chapter heads, executives, and boards of directors that you want your donation to be used to fund Practical Cure research. Attach a comment or send an email along with your gift stating how the donation should be used.