Career Development Awards

The T1DCRN is dedicated to building the next generation of research leaders, who will drive research progress and accelerate treatments and therapies for type 1 diabetes. The 2015 Career Development Awards (CDAs) was awarded to the best and brightest emerging scientists with innovative, cutting edge research ideas to help them establish themselves as independent, leading researchers in type 1 diabetes.For further information about this award, please visit our Career Development funding opportunities page.

Current Recipients

Associate Professor Melinda Coughlan, Baker IDI VIC

Mapping the mitochondrial signature of individuals with type 1 diabetes and nephropathy

Kidney disease is a serious complication of diabetes (known as diabetic nephropathy) and is the major cause of kidney failure in the western world. Unfortunately, current medicines used to treat persons with type 1 diabetes with kidney disease can only delay but do not prevent the progression to end stage kidney disease. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand the factors that trigger kidney damage in diabetes, and also to develop new medicines that can be applied early in the disease to stop the progression to end stage kidney disease. The mitochondria are parts of our cells that convert the food we eat into energy. They are known as the “power plants” of the cell and are damaged in diabetes. It is thought that these damaged mitochondria may lead to the onset of diabetic complications. Associate Professor Melinda Coughlan from Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute is a recipient of the JDRF Career Development Award and aims to investigate exactly how these power plants are damaged in the diabetic kidney. The ultimate aim of this study is to establish if mitochondrial health can be restored using new medicines that directly target mitochondria, which will then improve diabetic kidney disease, leading to new therapies for people with diabetes.More effective strategies to treat diabetic complications are urgently needed. This study has direct implications for the development of new medicines that could be designed to target specific diabetic complications. Since this process of mitochondrial structural and functional change occurs not only in the kidney, but may also occur in the eye (specifically the retina), the nerves, the heart and blood vessels, the findings from this study will be relevant not only for diabetic kidney disease but also for other diabetic complications including blindness and hardening of the arteries.

Associate Professor Anandwardhan Hardikar, University of Sydney NSW

PREDICT T1D: Plasma RNA evaluation and diagnosis in children progressing to type 1 diabetes

The incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing globally and is a major healthcare concern. Type 1 diabetes is characterised by high blood sugar levels due to loss of insulin-producing ("beta") cells in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that controls the body’s carbohydrate, protein and blood fat metabolism. Death of these insulin-producing beta cells begins years before people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and at diagnosis usually over 70% of their beta cells are lost. We currently lack good tests to determine if and how much beta cell death is occurring, and to monitor treatments that are being tried to prevent or slow the development of type 1 diabetes. In addition, once diabetes is established, long-term high blood sugar levels and related disturbances in blood fats, proteins and blood vessel function can damage small and large blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, heart, legs and brain. This damage takes years, and we also currently lack good tests to monitor blood vessel damage and the effects of treatments. Previous JDRF funded research has identified a new genetic marker or “signature” in blood that may predict beta cell death and hence progression to type 1 diabetes. Associate Professor Anandwardhan Hardikar from the University of Sydney is a recipient of the JDRF Career Development Award and aims to verify this blood test panel or ‘signature’ in existent blood samples and related data collected from various groups of children at risk of type 1 diabetes at the time of type 1 diabetes diagnosis, including children of very different ethnic backgrounds. In addition, a set of markers or “signatures” of blood vessel damage in adults has been discovered and will also be verified as part of this study from samples of people with type 1 diabetes both with and without blood vessel complications. If the ideas and initial studies prove correct then test results will improve the early prediction of type 1 diabetes as well as the monitoring of treatment responses including islet transplantation, vaccines and disease-modifying drugs. The blood vessel related signature will also enable the early detection and monitoring of blood vessel damage and its response to treatments. We will develop our tests, if results merit it, to a commercial test so that these tools can be made available to researchers and clinicians globally, hence ultimately to people with or at risk of type 1 diabetes.

Mentored Clinician Researcher Fellowship

The T1DCRN encourages clinicians who are interested in research to receive high quality research training through our Mentored Clinician Researcher Fellowship (MCRF). The Fellowship provides salary support for one to two days per week of dedicated research time for a clinical research project, allowing active clinicians to take time away from their clinic duties. Recipients of the MCRF are mentored by a leading clinical researcher to develop research skills and assist them in establishing their research career in type 1 diabetes. For further information about this award, please visit our Career Development funding opportunities page.

Read about past MCRF recipients.

Current Recipient

Dr Mary Abraham, Princess Margaret Hospital WA

Restoration of hypoglycaemia awareness in patients with impaired awareness using closed loop technology in an ambulatory setting

Type 1 diabetes has its challenges even if good control is obtained and in some patients, the fear of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) limits the improvement of diabetes management. Hypoglycaemia can be distressing, embarrassing and sometimes severe enough to cause life threatening episodes. People tend to avoid activities and exercise due to the fear of low blood sugar levels. Some people with type 1 diabetes are particularly at risk of severe hypoglycaemia - these people are not able to perceive the symptoms of low blood sugar levels and hence fail to recognise the need to treat them. These patients are said to have reduced awareness of hypoglycaemia and hence are at increased risk of moderate to severe hypoglycaemia. Dr Mary Abraham from the University of Western Australia has been awarded the JDRF Mentored Clinician Researcher Fellowship, and will work under the mentorship of Professor Timothy Jones to gain invaluable experience at the beginning of her career. Her study aims to identify the number of patients in a diabetes clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital who have impaired awareness to hypoglycaemia. Once this group has been identified, a trial will be conducted to see the effect of a new technology, known as a ‘closed loop’ system provided through Medtronic to Professor Jones, in the prevention of hypoglycaemia and hence its role in improving awareness. Closed loop technology will be compared to standard insulin pump therapy with a low glucose suspend feature. Improvement in hypoglycaemia awareness by reducing low blood sugar levels in the day to day lives of people with type 1 diabetes will be a significant step. This will allow people to improve their glucose control without the fear of low blood sugar levels. Dr Abraham, under the guidance of Professor Jones, hopes to translate this research into real life situations and make available these treatment options in clinical practice.

Photo: Dr Paul Benitez-Aguirre, 2013 recipient of the Mentored Clinical Researcher Fellowship