Networks Our Partnerships for a World Without Diabetes
Researchers at Helmholtz Munich are working toward a world without diabetes. They are not doing so alone, but with a network of organizations, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. Their goal is to use experts’ knowledge to create something new: innovative prevention and treatment of diabetes.
A world without diabetes relies on three pillars: early detection, prevention, and treatment. Institutes at Helmholtz Munich are working on optimizing these three areas. The Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) focuses on type 1 diabetes, in which the body turns against itself and destroys insulin-producing cells. There is not yet any treatment for this autoimmune disease. The IDF and its international network are working on new approaches to prevention that delay or even prevent the disease from occurring.
As the bearing component of GPPAD – the Global Platform to Prevent Autoimmune Diabetes – the IDF in Munich is part of an international coalition of academic research institutes and hospitals in Europe. GPPAD is active at seven locations in Sweden, Great Britain, Poland, Belgium, and Germany, with additional study centers in Hanover and Dresden.
Since it was founded in 2015, GPPAD has served as an international infrastructure for scientific studies. The initial goal is to detect an increased risk of type 1 diabetes among infants (Freder1k study). If this is the case, families and their children can participate in clinical studies with new, potentially preventive treatments (SINT1A study and POInT study). These studies are supposed to prevent the occurrence of type 1 diabetes in the future.
Yet GPPAD does not want to tackle this issue alone. In order to drive progress even further, GPPAD provides pseudonymized data within its database and bio-base for the scientific community. Scientists currently have access to 150,000 persons’ data.
Type 1 diabetes is often first detected when affected children show symptoms or, in the worst-case scenario, exhibit potentially life-threatening metabolic derailments. However, type 1 diabetes is meanwhile detectable long before clinical manifestation. Anette-Gabriele Ziegler and Peter Achenbach, and their team at the IDF, have developed and tested suitable testing methods: A few blood drops can now be used to determine whether an early stage of type 1 diabetes is present even before the disease has broken out.
As part of the Fr1da study, the IDF partners with over 660 paediatric clinics, 17 paediatric diabetes institutions, the Berufsverband der Kinder- und Jugendärzte e.V. Landesverband Bayern, and the Paednetz® Bayern. Children between two to ten years of age can receive free, voluntary testing during a check-up at a doctor’s office in Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, and Saxony. It is the world’s first population-wide screening for early type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes should be diagnosed early in order to act preventively and avoid serious metabolic derailments among children. Right now, goal number 1 is to broadly standardize the early detection test from the Fr1da study – especially as nine out of ten children have no family history of diabetes.
Helmholtz Munich is also a trusted partner in the field of industry. Its joint mission is to develop innovative treatments for chronic illnesses like diabetes.
In order to improve and accelerate diabetes treatment, the Institute of Diabetes and Regeneration Research (IDR) has established a research partnership with the global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly). This partnership focuses on regenerating beta cells from the pancreas. New treatments aim to inhibit – ideally to reverse – the progression of the chronic illness.
This cooperation with Lilly opens up new doors: The strengths of Helmholtz Munich in fundamental and translational research, coupled with Lilly’s experience in developing medications and treatments, make it possible to efficiently find new approaches to treatment.
Helmholtz Munich has also partnered with Novo Nordisk since 2016. Stephan Herzig, Director of the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC) and researchers from various institutes at the HDC are collaborating with the pharmaceutical company on joint research projects. The aim is to identify and develop novel targets and technologies that could ultimately lead to new innovative treatments for patients with metabolic diseases like diabetes. In additional to its research expertise, the Center’s translational research capacities play a crucial role in this strategic partnership.