Before I get into the recap, I want to say that I wish more people would have/could have attended. It's not very often that a Midwest city like Omaha gets to have people of this caliber to come speak. I wish the event could have been better promoted (and with much more notice given), as I felt the 40 or so of us that attended were not nearly as many who would have, had they know about this (and had they realized how unique this opportunity was). Attendance was low, and for that, I'm a bit sad.
Anyway. *cough* Onto the recap.
She mentioned partnering with the Canadian government to secure funding for research ("Hey, if they want to give us $20M to do clinical trials there, we're not turning that down!"), and spent a great deal of her time speaking about the various industry alliances JDRF has entered into.
(I should also note that she made sure to point out that while many have expressed concern over the money JDRF puts towards these ventures, in the last fiscal year [FY11], just 10% of research funding when to industry partnerships. To me, that's a rather small amount, considering what it COULD be.)
Next up: Dr. Dutta. (I'm also going to say here that I think JDRF has done a great job of putting researchers who are able to put things in understandable terms in touch with the diabetes community. It can't be easy to translate things so eloquently, but people like Dr. Dutta are able to do just that.)
Insulin delivery was another key topic. Dr. Dutta pointed out that current insulin delivery methods, which have insulin arriving in the body subcutaneously (meaning, under the skin), don't make a lot of sense. Think about it - in a healthy human body, does insulin get produced under the skin? (Nope - pancreas.) Does it do it's work under the skin? (Nope - it has to get to the blood stream.) Intra-dermal delivery techniques (which would engage more blood vessels) would also eliminate some of the more common complaints we insulin pump users have, as no tubing would mean no occlusions, kinks, etc.
|Graph of how insulin works in a|
non-diabetic person (that's in green)
and someone administering a
current insulin (in pink). Notice
how we're missing that big spike
of insulin at the start?
And lastly, the "high risk" project: glucose-responsive insulin (GRI). What needs to get accomplished here is that GRI needs to mimic physiology (deliver insulin when and where its needed), be device-free (limiting fingersticks, replacing insulin pumps, and reducing human intervention), and also address the critical gaps in type 1 treatment. Basically? It needs to reduce the burden of managing the disease, big time. (That... yeah. That would be nice.)
You may already be aware, but JDRF introduced a prize incentive related to GRI as a way to engage a new audience of experts. Dr. Dutta explained that while offering a prize in this arena is unorthodox, it was necessary: "If this were easy to develop, we'd have it already. People have spent time and effort trying to develop GRI but keep failing at it. We need people outside of the "usual suspects", and offering this prize can help us engage with those people."
Dr. Dutta left us with these thoughts: if something works (treatment-wise), jump on it. Your best defensive strategy is knowledge, so do your research. You can't expect your medical team to know about everything that's out there, so be an advocate for your own health by being engaged in learning about your disease.
And in summary: all of these technologies may not be suitable for each patient. We all have our own unique pathology, and we hope to get to a position where we can pick and choose from these advanced treatments, so that everyone can do what works best for them as individuals.
Thanks again to Linda Johnson and Dr. Sanjoy Dutta for spending a little bit of time with us here in the Cornhusker state. I hope they come back again soon.
Disclosure: JDRF did not specifically ask me to attend this event or talk/write about it. I was not compensated for my time there or for writing this recap. I am just super nerdy and like to learn (and then share) things like this. As per uzh, my opinions (and translation/recall of events) are my own.