Major grant to be spent on type 1 baby research
Nearly £800,000 is to be ploughed into research looking at why type 1 diabetes develops in babies.
Dr Richard Oram, who is a researcher at the Exeter University Medical School, has been given the Diabetes UK’s Harry Keen Fellowship Award, which was set up in honour of Professor Harry Keen, a pioneer in diabetes research.
The money will be used on work Dr Oram is doing into a rare form of type 1 diabetes which develops in children under the age of 12 months.
Up until recently it was thought that it was not possible for children under six months to develop type 1 diabetes, but the research team at the university found a very rare group of children with the condition.
Dr Oram will be looking at why the immune system goes wrong in babies and hopes to pinpoint exactly when their immune systems starts behaving abnormally.
It is also hoped that by discovering when and how things go wrong in the immune system of very young children, it could help researchers find ways to stop the condition from progressing.
Dr Oram said: “I am extremely honoured to receive the highly prestigious Harry Keen Fellowship Award from Diabetes UK on behalf of all the team at the University of Exeter Medical School. We’re very much looking forward to getting this important study underway.”
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: “Dr Oram’s research into why type 1 diabetes develops in babies is key to knowing more about diabetes and how we can fight it. By funding critical research like this, we’re aiming for a world where diabetes can do no harm, and preventing yet more people developing this potentially life-threatening condition. This Award highlights our commitment to investing in the future leaders of diabetes research.”
The Diabetes UK Harry Keen Intermediate Clinical Fellowship allows outstanding healthcare professionals who have gained a PhD or equivalent to establish themselves as independent diabetes researchers.
Professor Harry Keen was one of the leading diabetes researchers of the 20th century. The Bedford Study, which he ran in 1962, led not only to the identification of 250 people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, but to the first definition of being at high risk of type 2 diabetes, which he termed “borderline diabetes”.
Perhaps the highlight of his career was the leading role he played in a landmark 1978 study that showed, for the first time, that an insulin pump was technically feasible, could be tolerated by people with diabetes and could improve their blood glucose control.