Beta Cell Therapy Translational Programme Grants

Beta cells illustration

Beta Cell Therapy Translational Programme Grants

Amount: Applications led by an individual clinical or non-clinical group leaders: up to £1.5M; Applications jointly led by up to three group leaders: £2-3M

Duration: 3-5 years

Skills: Multidisciplinary

Location: UK and European Researchers – Principal Applicant must be based in the UK

Process: 2-stages – 1) Expression of interest; If shortlisted : 2) Full Application and Interview

Expression of Interest Deadline: 28 April 2023; Full Application Deadline : 14 August 2023 and Interviews : w/c 2 October 2023


The Beta Cell Therapy Grand Challenge will support research focused on the development of approaches that will restore beta cell function in people living with type 1 diabetes.

Over the next five years we will invest £30M into innovative and novel ideas to improve the feasibility of beta cell regeneration and/or transplantation as a curative treatment strategy. We want to fund a breadth of approaches that includes high-risk, high-reward projects designed to test disruptive ideas and longer programmes focused on translation and clinical application. Alongside this, we will place considerable effort into determining what is needed to enable the UK to be primed to test beta cell therapy products in humans as they emerge. Emphasis is placed on the formation of a collaborative and multidisciplinary beta cell therapy community. To achieve this, we announced our first call in 2022 to fund several Senior Research Fellows, the future leaders of beta cell research, and will launch a range of opportunities over the next two years.

Purpose and scope

This call is focused on translation. This is designed to provide the injection of funds needed to fast-track burgeoning beta cell ideas towards the clinic.

Applications submitted under this call should focus on beta cell replacement and regeneration for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The Beta Cell Therapy Scientific Advisory Panel has identified two themes to be addressed by this call.

Theme 1: Design of Beta Cells Fit for Transplantation

Generation of stem cell derived beta cells that are fit for transplantation.
Emphasis could be placed on the:

  • Production of beta cells that will be stable after transplantation with consideration given to insulin production, cell functionality over time and cell longevity.
  • Development of approaches to protect or cloak the transplanted beta cells from the immune system and prevent reactivation of the autoimmune process. Approaches could include but are not limited to:
    • Modulation of the host e.g., immunotherapies.
    • Manipulation of the microenvironment.
    • Modification of the beta cells directly e.g., genetic engineering.
    • Adoption of novel transplant approaches e.g., location.

Applications can’t solely focus on understanding more about the microenvironment or the development of novel immunotherapy approaches, but these aspects can be embedded into the broader programme of work.

Theme 2 : Approaches to Regenerate Beta Cells

Exploration of approaches to regenerate the beta cell population.
Emphasis could be placed on the:

  • Stimulation of beta cell replication.
  • Conversion of cell type function in the pancreas.

Applications may seek to address part of a theme, an entire theme, part of themes one and two or both themes. However, the likelihood of success is not linked to how many aspects of the call are covered and the bullet points provided under each theme are not prescriptive but designed to stimulate discussion and outline some of the aspects that need to be solved.

To note the inclusion of studies using cell systems and animal models is permitted but applications should have a defined route to translation. We encourage all applications to have elements that are high-risk but would be transformative if successful. We welcome outside of the box ideas and novel applications.

For this call we will not accept applications that seek to:

  • Advance our ability to identify and stratify those at risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Prevent or improve the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
  • Address the complications of type 1 diabetes.
  • Only deliver pilot/feasibility studies or part of an early-stage (phase 1 or 2) clinical trial.
  • Fund capital buildings, refurbishment, or other infrastructure costs.

Eligibility criteria

  • We welcome applications led by individual clinical or non-clinical group leaders (Principal Applicants) or those jointly led by up to three group leaders (Principal Applicants and one or two Joint Lead Applicants). Principal Applicants/Joint Lead Applicants should be leading their own independent research group.
      • Principal Applicants and Joint Lead Applicants must be in receipt of a salary for the duration of the Award.
      • Principal Applicants must hold an established NHS, academic or research post in the UK.
        • If based in the UK, the same conditions apply as for Principal Applicants.
        • If based in Europe, Joint Lead Applicants must hold an equivalent position, as described for Principal Applicants, in the country they are located.Joint Lead Applicants may be based in the UK or Europe.
      • Principal Applicants/Joint Lead Applicants should have a higher degree (PhD or equivalent) and significant research experience. Clinical researchers should be registered healthcare professionals.
      • Principal Applicants and their Host Institutes must be able to sign up to the Steve Morgan Foundation Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge Grant Conditions at the time of making an application. Please note that these succeed the Diabetes UK Grant Conditions.
        • Applications may also include:
          Co-applicant/s involved in the development of the application and who, if funded, would have some responsibility for the management and/or delivery of the programme.
        • Collaborator/s who provide specific expertise on aspects of the programme but who do not share in the responsibility for the delivery of the programme.
    • Industry involvement is supported where it will add value to the programme. This includes representatives from small-medium enterprises, biotechs and pharmaceutical companies.
      • Diabetes UK has a Commercial Collaborations Policy which sets out conditions when involving Commercial Collaborators, and we ask you to arrange a call with the Research Office to discuss any industry involvement.
      • If industry will be involved, please define the financial or in-kind support that will be provided.
  • A contribution towards the cost of the programme by the Host Institution would be welcomed and applicants are asked to detail this in the application e.g., equipment or PhD students. This may include in-kind contributions.

Skills and expertise

  • We strongly encourage multidisciplinary applications that include experts with complementary skills e.g., Joint Lead Applicants (if relevant), Co-Applicants and Collaborators.
  • We welcome applications from type 1 diabetes researchers and beyond. You do not need to currently work on type 1 diabetes to apply as the Principal Applicant or a Joint Lead Applicant. We want to attract new thinking to the field.

For example, an Expression of Interest could include a range of experts including but not limited to:

    • Bioengineers.
    • Clinicians.
    • Immunologists.
    • Stem cell scientists.
    • Chemists.
    • Surgeons.
  • We want to enable you to assemble the most appropriate research team. Therefore, we actively invite applications that include European researchers and/or which seek to connect with research Networks outside the UK.
  • We also ask you to consider how to work in partnership with people affected by type 1 diabetes.
    • We are passionate about involving people affected by type 1 diabetes in research. We believe that involving this community in the planning, design, implementation, management, and dissemination of research into type 1 diabetes is integral to the delivery of high-quality studies that will ultimately benefit those with or at risk of the condition.
    • Please ensure that the views and needs of people living with type 1 diabetes are taken into account in the development of your application. And consider equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in your application including any limitations and how you would propose to address these.
    • For more information on involvement please refer to our Guidance on Patient and Public Involvement in Research.

If invited to submit a full application, you may continue to broaden the skills and expertise of the team to contribute to the development of the application and delivery of the programme if funded. But you must include a named:

  • Patient Involvement Co-Applicant, a person affected by type 1 diabetes who is embedded in the research team, and clearly detail their involvement in the programme and how they will be supported.

Application process

  • Eligible costs are captured below.
  • At the Expression of Interest stage, we only require a top-level budget that does not need to be approved by your Host Institution’s finance office.
  • Then log on to the Diabetes UK Online Grants Management System to access the application form.
  • We encourage you to register to attend our webinar on 15 March 2023 at 15.00 GMT to hear our top tips on applying for this funding opportunity.
  • When compiling your application please ensure that it:
    • Falls within the scope of this call (captured above).
    • Complies with our eligibility criteria (captured above).
    • Addresses the assessment criteria (captured below).
  • Contact the Diabetes UK office before submitting your application if you:
    • Anticipate your programme would need to exceed the funding caps listed to be successful.
    • Propose to involve industry in your application.
    • Have any other queries.
  • Note the key dates listed below in your diary.
  • Notify the Grants Office at your Host Institution that you will be applying

Assessment criteria

Expression of Interest Applications will be assessed by a Beta Cell Scientific Panel on:

  • Translational impact and the potential difference the research will make to the lives of people with type 1 diabetes.
  • Innovational strength of the programme.
  • Scientific excellence including whether researchers with the appropriate breadth of skills and expertise have been assembled to solve the challenge.
  • Track record of the Principal Applicant/Joint Lead Applicants (if relevant).

Those that are shortlisted will also be reviewed by experts by experience, people living with and affected by type 1 diabetes who are on the Diabetes UK Grants Advisory Panel (GAP). GAP does not comment on the scientific quality of the research but ensures that the research is relevant and important to people living with diabetes.

A sub-group of GAP will review the shortlisted Expressions of Interest and provide feedback on:

  • Plain English summary and communication of the research.
  • How you have and plan to involve people living with type 1 diabetes in the research.
  • The potential difference the research will make to the lives of people with diabetes.

Key dates

Stage 1 – Expression of Interest

28 February – Call launch

28 April – Expression of Interest deadline

May-June – Scientific and Grants Advisory Panel Review

Stage 2 – Full Application

12 June – Invitation for full application

14 August – Full application deadlines

August – September – Scientific and Grants Advisory Panel Reviews

20 September – Interview shortlisting outcomes

w/c 2 October – Interviews

Guidelines and terms and conditions

General Guidelines for Research Grant Applicants
Guidance on Patient and Public Involvement in Research
Commercial Collaborations Policy
Steve Morgan Foundation Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge Grant Conditions

Funding can cover:

  • Staff salaries. For example: technician, research assistant, postdoctoral researcher *.
  • Stipends and UK tuition fees for PhD students.
  • Project manager/co-ordinator/clinical assistance may be provided in some cases, if essential, but this must be fully justified within the application.
  • Consumables, materials and animal costs.
  • Programme specific equipment costs. While there is no upper limit on this amount, Host Institutions are expected to contribute towards the cost of requested equipment that is proportionate to the total amount requested.
  • Costs associated with a period overseas.
  • Costs associated with travel and registration for conferences **.
  • Programme relevant training costs ***.
  • Patient and public involvement costs.
  • Flexible contingency fund – this fund will allow novel avenues and opportunities, as well as any issues, that arise during the funding period to be explored. This should not exceed 10% of total requested and use of this fund will be embedded into the annual reporting process (external review where necessary).

* Diabetes UK will not pay salaries on a cost recovery basis and is therefore unwilling to meet the salary costs of staff currently funded by the Higher Education Funding Council, NHS or equivalent. Where Principal Applicants/Joint Lead Applicants, Co-Applicants salaries are dependent on grant funding, we would require a letter from the Host Institute confirming this. Diabetes UK will pay for named staff with specific expertise, such as statisticians, health economists, nurses etc for their time on the programme.   If you are not sure if the salary of a post will be covered, please contact the office to clarify. Costs for National Insurance contributions and any superannuation should be added to salary costs at the point of application. These costs will not be considered after an award has been made. Known salary increments may be included on the application form but national pay awards may not.

** Principal Applicants/Joint Lead Applicants may request a maximum of £2,500 for each PhD student (if included in the Programme) to attend conferences across the duration of the Award. This budget should cover conference registration, travel and accommodation. These must be reasonable and fully justified.

*** Principal Applicants/Joint Lead Applicants may request training costs of up to £1,500 for each PhD student (if included in the Programme). Training must be relevant to the programme and fully justified.

Please visit our General Guidelines for Research Grant Applicants for more information about costs covered by Diabetes UK, and any disallowed costs.

View the Beta Cell Programme Grants webinar


For any questions about the Grand Challenge, please contact the SMF Grand Challenge Funding Team: