Teplizumab, the ground-breaking immunotherapy underpinned by JDRF research, can delay type 1 diabetes by an average of nearly three years.
According to a newly published paper, half of people treated with teplizumab still have not developed type 1 diabetes five years later.
That compares to just 22 per cent of participants who were not given the drug.
All the participants were already at high genetic risk of developing type 1, but only those given teplizumab saw an increase in their insulin levels.
By comparing the two groups, the researchers calculate that teplizumab delayed type 1 by an average of 32.5 months.
Following these and other promising results, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering licensing the drug to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes in people at risk of the condition.
JDRF leading the way
JDRF has supported the development of teplizumab for many years.
In 1988, JDRF gave a Career Development Award to Dr Kevan Herold, who showed that he could prevent autoimmune diabetes with an immunotherapy that later formed the basis of teplizumab.
He went on to receive more than 15 grants from JDRF, and led numerous JDRF-funded clinical trials of teplizumab, which were published in 2002, 2005 and 2013.
JDRF also supports TrialNet, a global network of researchers and clinicians, which conducted this trial alongside Dr Herold.
Early results from their collaboration suggested teplizumab could delay the onset of type 1 for two years – making it the first ever study in humans to show a delay in the onset of type 1 diabetes.
Next steps for teplizumab
While the FDA decides if teplizumab can be used to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes, JDRF is also exploring its potential to help people already living with the condition.
JDRF has invested in the US company Provention Bio, which is testing teplizumab in people recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
The trial is recruiting in the UK thanks to the JDRF co-funded Type 1 Diabetes UK Immunotherapy Consortium, which recruits people with type 1 into clinical trials of new immunotherapy treatments.
If successful, this could become the first immune therapy approved for people who have the condition – bringing us one step closer to curing type 1 diabetes.
Conor McKeever, Research Communications Manager at JDRF, said: “Permanently switching off an autoimmune response in humans is something that’s never been done before. But we’re confident that we can achieve it.
“That’s why JDRF has invested more than £115 million in immune therapy research to date, including supporting teplizumab research for many years.”
The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.