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A world first program designed to help medical researchers in type one diabetes develop their leadership skills to help take innovations out of the lab and into the real world has graduated its first intake. The graduates, announced in Canberra on June 26th 2018, have already put their skills into practice, securing funding to look at a dietary supplement that could stop type one diabetes.
In the increasingly competitive world of medical discovery, researchers are having to become as adept in the boardroom as they are in the lab. To help the next generation of medical research leaders develop these skills, JDRF established the Future Research Leaders Program (FRLP) with support from the Macquarie Group Foundation.
As part of this program, the researchers had to come together and design an innovative research project that put the skills they learned into practice. The project had to meet the high standard required to secure research funding through the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative (SRI) in Type 1 Diabetes. The SRI funds the Australian Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network (CRN), administered by JDRF.
This group are working together for the first time to look at a modified starch and its potential role in the prevention of type one diabetes. The starch has already been proven by one of the graduates, Dr Eliana Marino, to stop type one diabetes in mice. Now, it will now be tested for safety in humans with type one diabetes for the very first time. The group have been awarded $350,000 in funding, with $250,000 provided by the CRN and $100,000 by the Macquarie Group Foundation.

Commenting on the program, JDRF CEO Mike Wilson said “We want our best young researchers focused on research. However, the reality of modern science means there are also elements of administration, management and commercial interaction, all of which helps takes science out of the lab and into the community where it is needed. The program aims to arm our researchers with the tools and skills needed for this and we’re delighted to see they have put it to good work already.”
“This kind of research has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of type one diabetes, how it starts and what we can do to stop it. We are incredibly fortunate in Australia that we have partners like the Australian Government and the Macquarie Group Foundation to help us support researcher development, and a program like the CRN that can support these research with vital research funds” Mr Wilson said.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s $35 million commitment to the Special Research Initiative in Type 1 Diabetes was helping back the next generation of medical research leaders. “I congratulate the graduates from the first Future Leaders Program and they are testament to the quality of the next generation of researchers in Australia,” Minister Birmingham said.

“The Turnbull Government’s strong budget management means we can back essential services like the life-changing research and researchers of the JDRF’s Clinical Research Network which gives us all great hope for the future health of all Australians. I look forward to seeing the results of this exciting research over time.”

Minister for Health Greg Hunt said Australia had a strong culture of supporting research and innovation. “Medical research is about saving lives and protecting lives.” “The Turnbull Government will continue to back our world-leading Australian researchers to deliver better health outcomes for all Australian patients.” “Today’s graduates are among Australia’s best and we look forward to the results of their research into this important health issue,” Minister Hunt said.
The researchers hope to publish their first research findings in 2019 with the next step being to test if this fibre can prevent or reverse type one diabetes in a clinical trial.
JDRF Media contact: David Leahy, 0405 328 256 or dleahy@jdrf.org.au

Collaborating researchers from the first group of the JDRF/MGF Future Research Leaders Program. L-R A/Prof Sonia Saad, Dr Emma Hamilton-Williams, Dr Eliana Marino. Absent: Dr Kirstine Bell, Dr Esteban Gurzov, Dr Phillip Bedggood.

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