Prof. Paul Johnson is the Director of the Oxford Islet Transplant Programme, which works to prepare islets from donors for use in research when they are not suitable for transplantation. Islets are groups of cells found in the pancreas which contain the insulin-producing beta cells. Studying how pancreatic islets work in health and in type 1 diabetes is critical for the development and improvement of treatments for type 1 diabetes.
How did you get involved in type 1 research?
In 1993 I was appointed as a Clinical Research Fellow in Islet Transplantation at Leicester University. During this time I did a Higher degree in Islet Isolation/Islet Biology and this started my long term involvement in the field of type 1 diabetes.
Has JDRF’s support made a difference to your research?
My research group has been fortunate to receive generous funding from JDRF for our research for a number of years now. This has been hugely beneficial for our programme and we are extremely grateful to JDRF for their ongoing commitment to partner with us.
What keeps you motivated in your work as a scientist?
As a clinical scientist I have the huge privilege of treating patients at the same time as being actively involved in basic and translational research. It is the patients that motivate me to take their on-going clinical problems from the clinical ‘bedside’ back to the research ‘bench’ in order to try and find solutions and develop novel treatments for their needs.
What is your hope for your research in the future?
Islet transplantation has achieved considerable success over the last decade. However its full potential is yet to be reached. The ultimate aim is to use this minimally invasive treatment to reverse type 1 diabetes soon after diagnosis. This means that we need to find ways in which we can use it to treat children. In order to do this we are researching novel strategies that should enable us to deliver islet transplantation in the future without the need for immunosuppression (anti-rejection drugs). If we can achieve this, this will be a ‘game changer’.
When not in the lab, how do you spend your free time?
The combined clinical and research commitments naturally keep me very busy. However away from work, I am an avid Chelsea supporter, and enjoy fly- fishing, kayaking and spending quality time with family and friends. I am an active member of a local church and am a Trustee for a national charity addressing debt and poverty.