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£20 million type 1 diabetes screening project co-funded by JDRF launches in Europe

EDENT1FI aims to develop a population screening programme for type 1 diabetes, revolutionising the way the condition is diagnosed and managed in its early stages.
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Kate Gerrard 12 December 2023

EDENT1FI logo.

November 2023 saw the launch of a five-year project to develop innovative approaches for early detection of type 1 diabetes through screening. The pioneering project, named EDENT1FI, is a collaboration between researchers from academia and industry, with around £20 million of funding from the Innovative Health Initiative (IHI), the Helmsley Charitable Trust and JDRF International.

What is EDENT1FI?

EDENT1FI stands for European action for the Diagnosis of Early Non-clinical Type 1 diabetes For disease Interception. It is a five-year research project spearheading innovative methods for early detection of type 1 diabetes to transform how we diagnose and treat the condition. The EDENT1FI team will screen 200,000 children across Europe in different populations and healthcare systems, and assess the psychosocial, medical, and economic impact of population screening.

The EDENT1FI project will then create a roadmap for how best to screen populations for type 1 diabetes and establish treatment pathways to slow the progression of type 1 to effectively prevent and manage the condition. This will include educating the public, healthcare professionals, and regulatory authorities about this new era of diagnosing and treating type 1 diabetes to enable real change.

Why do we need screening for type 1 diabetes?

The immune attack on the insulin-producing beta cells in type 1 diabetes happens gradually and symptoms only show when most of the beta cells have been destroyed. To be effective, treatments to protect beta cells, such as immune therapies, need to be given when there are still beta cells remaining. This means we need to identify people who are in the earliest stages of experiencing the immune attack, before they develop symptoms. The only way to find these people is through screening for type 1. Screening also provides an opportunity to educate families about the signs and symptoms of type 1 before they occur, helping to avoid diagnoses in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Exploring different screening methods

A range of screening projects are already underway, including testing for genes that carry an increased risk of type 1 and biological markers in the blood of the immune attack. But these methods aren’t perfect as they can’t predict exactly when or even if a person at risk of type 1 will end up developing it. So, part of EDENT1FI is also to develop a coordinated strategy to improve early detection, including refining the markers we look for, understanding risk stratification, clarifying stages of type 1, and personalising how we monitor people at risk.

Why is EDENT1FI launching now?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of type 1 diabetes were rising by 3-4% each year. A recent study found that this figure rose dramatically to 27% in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also identified similarly rising rates of people being diagnosed in DKA. With so many new people developing type 1, it’s more important than ever to revolutionise the way we diagnose and care for people with the condition.

JDRF involvement in EDENT1FI

Dr Jeannette Söderberg, Director European Research for JDRF International, is on the coordination team for EDENT1FI.

Jeannette said: “This is such an important initiative, investing in the impact of screening for type 1 diabetes. The project will deliver a roadmap for pan-European implementation of screening which will enable us to identify people at risk, avoid DKA, and support families.”

Expanding on The ELSA Study

JDRF is also co-funding the ELSA study , a research project screening 20,000 children in the UK. The ELSA study team, led by Professor Parth Narendran at the University of Birmingham, tests children’s blood for proteins that show the immune system has begun to attack the insulin-producing cells.

Parth said: “We are very excited to be contributing to the EDENT1FI study. This study aims to accelerate generate population screening for type 1 diabetes across Europe. It will complement the research we are doing with the ELSA study in the UK, sharing learnings and best practice to ensure the very best strategies, assays and follow up processes are developed to support the early detection of type 1.”

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