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JDRF researcher John Todd wins prestigious award for excellence at EASD

JDRF researcher Professor John Todd has been honoured for his decades of work to make type 1 diabetes a thing of the past.
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Jo Watts 30 September 2021
John Todd, type 1 diabetes researcher

Professor John Todd was awarded the EASD-Novo Nordisk Foundation Prize for Excellence in recognition of his 35 years of research. Photo: Novo Nordisk Foundation / © Stephen Foote

JDRF researcher Professor John Todd has been honoured for his decades of work to make type 1 diabetes a thing of the past.

He was awarded the EASD-Novo Nordisk Foundation Prize for Excellence in recognition of his 35 years of research, which has revolutionised our understanding of the way type 1 develops.

This knowledge is vital to discovering treatments that can stop the condition in its tracks.

The prize is one of the most prestigious in the field of diabetes, and comes with more than £500,000 to support Professor Todd’s ongoing research.

Accepting the award virtually, Professor Todd hailed the pace of change in type 1 diabetes research today and shared his vision for a world without type 1.

From DNA to drug discovery

Professor Todd, who is now Professor of Precision Medicine at the University of Oxford, traces his work back to a 1988 Career Development Award from JDRF. This led him to dedicate his career to eradicating type 1 diabetes.

Since then, Professor Todd and his colleague Professor Linda Wicker have been behind many of the world’s leading studies into the genetics of type 1.

For the last 21 years, they have led the JDRF/Wellcome Diabetes and Inflammation Laboratory, currently based in Oxford.

The lab uses information about the genetics of type 1 – and how these genes affect the cells of the body – to uncover potential new treatments.

This work led to their discovery that a protein called interleukin-2 is crucial in the development of autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes. Small differences in the body’s levels of interleukin-2 can have a dramatic effect on the immune system.

They are now trialling a drug called aldesleukin – an artificial form of interleukin-2 – to see if treating people at risk of developing type 1 diabetes with low levels of interleukin-2 can prevent the condition from progressing and stop them from needing insulin.

John Todd leading the field

In his 35-year career, Professor Todd has published more than 500 papers – including 12 recent publications in the renowned journals Science, Nature, Cell, and the New England Journal of Medicine – making him among the world’s most respected researchers in type 1 diabetes.

Conor McKeever, Research Communications Manager at JDRF, said: “We offer huge congratulations to Professor John Todd. This award is truly deserved, and a reflection of his hard work and dedication to improving the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. His research has transformed the field and is bringing us closer to eradicating type 1 for good.”

Stefano Del Prato, Chair of the Prize Committee and President of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), said: “John Todd is a true pioneer and visionary. His work is characterised by innovative thinking successfully translated into novel research targets, and it has fostered international collaborations with leading scientists in difficult clinical trials with children at high risk for type 1 diabetes.”

Professor Todd said: “I thank all the people with whom I have worked on type 1 diabetes and brought the field to where it is today.

“We are entering an era of genuine optimism in both prevention and treatment, so today, we can finally glimpse a world without type 1 diabetes and daily insulin injections.”

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