Professor Sarah Richardson, a researcher at the University of Exeter, and PI of the GW4 research and innovation community “Stratify and Treat – a new horizon for type 1 diabetes after 100 years”, has received a prestigious £1.5 million Senior Research Fellowship from the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge.
Professor Richardson is one of only three researchers in the UK to hold the award and this significant funding will support the groundbreaking research into type 1 diabetes she is leading. The fellowship is part of a collaboration between the Steve Morgan Foundation, Diabetes UK, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to advance scientific understanding and find innovative treatments for type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is characterised by the immune system targeting and damaging the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. By gaining a deeper understanding of the various ways the immune system attacks, researchers can develop advanced immunotherapy treatments tailored to individuals with type 1 diabetes. More than 413,000 people in the UK are living with type 1 diabetes, including almost 49,000 people in the south west and south central regions. Since the discovery of insulin in 1921 no new treatments have been developed.
Professor Richardson's research will focus on investigating the resilience of beta cells, which can sometimes withstand immune attacks and survive long after diagnosis. This knowledge will contribute to the development of strategies to fortify lab-grown beta cells, potentially leading to their successful transplantation in individuals with type 1 diabetes, offering protection against immune system attacks.
In 2019, Prof. Sarah Richardson's GW4 research and innovation community received an investment from the GW4 Alliance, securing over £8,000 to advance their research efforts in type 1 diabetes. This initial support paved the way for the community to strengthen links between the GW4 institution’s Type 1 diabetes research programmes and facilitate knowledge exchange, leading to future collaborative investigations.
With the GW4 funding acting as a catalyst, the community submitted several funding applications, leading to remarkable successes including a £60,000 studentship from UKRI, a £400,000 research grant from JDRF and in 2022, a Diabetes UK fellowship worth over £520,000 marked another significant accomplishment. With a total of £2.6 million in external grants secured through six awards, the community's work intends to bring transformative changes to the field of type 1 diabetes research, ultimately benefiting those living with this condition and their families. These successes laid the groundwork for the £1.5 million Senior Research Fellowship awarded to Professor Richardson.
“The GW4 community funding helped us create a network of researchers, healthcare professionals, data scientists, and clinicians working on Type 1 diabetes in the South West.” Professor Sarah Richardson said. “This contributed to further collaborative publications, joint research funding, and the formation of the T1D Engagement Group (T1D EgG) in the hope that some great ideas will hatch! This group meets monthly to discuss recent developments and hot topics in the field. It has now joined forces with the UK T1D Research Consortium to connect Type 1 diabetes researchers across the UK.”
The GW4 Building Communities Programme currently offers the GW4 Generator Fund and Development Awards, providing funding for collaborative research and innovation communities across the four GW4 universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter. By supporting the creation of new communities and nurturing existing ones, this initiative encourages the development of groundbreaking ideas and serves as a stepping-stone towards obtaining external funding.
Read more about the GW4 Development Awards and Generator Fund.