Together Type 1 Young Leaders at DUKPC

May 28, 2024
A group of young people sitting together and chatting

In April, we were delighted to be joined at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference by seven Young Leaders from the Together Type 1 programme. With funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation, the UK-wide programme aims to bring together young people aged 11-25 years with type 1 diabetes, providing them with a platform to build confidence, learn new skills, and meet others in their region living with the condition.

The Young Leaders had a very busy schedule during the conference, attending key scientific sessions, interviewing Grand Challenge researchers, and sharing their own lived experience of type 1 diabetes with scientists and healthcare professionals alike. We’re grateful to two of them for taking the time to write about their first DUKPC experience.

Young Leader Elise Featherstone from the North team shared her reflections:

“A key presence at this year’s conference was the Type 1 Grand Challenge. Hearing about this research programme made me consider, for the first time, the reality of not having type 1 diabetes for the rest of my life. A cure may be sooner than we think, and it may well be because of the Grand Challenge!”

Bringing back beta cells 

Dr James Cantley, a Grand Challenge Senior Research Fellow, optimistically shared findings from his team who are working to grow back insulin-making beta cells directly in the pancreas. Even during its early stages, this research offers hope and optimism for the diabetes community that one day we will be able to have functioning beta cells again.

New homes for transplanted cells 

Dr Vicky Salem and Rea Tresa highlighted their lab’s work on bio-printing a protective housing unit to protect the life-saving transplanted beta cells. This project aims to make sure that new beta cells placed in the body are able to thrive and adapt. The Grand Challenge’s ability to bring great people and cutting-edge innovations together to accelerate life changing research is very exciting.

The type 1 timeline

Professor Sarah Richardson explained that as well as a cure for people with type 1 diabetes, we also need ways to prevent the condition from ever occurring in people at high risk. Prof Richardson shared her team’s work looking into rare pancreas samples. Obtaining these samples is difficult but has enabled Prof Richardson and her team to learn more around the type 1 diabetes timeline and how we may be able to prevent or intercept the immune system attack in type 1. Such a breakthrough could completely alter the implications of diabetes on society, our healthcare system, and end type 1 altogether for future generations.

Next Amelia Trencher from the Midlands and Eastern team summed up her thoughts:

“It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to attend DUKPC 2024 as a Young Leader, and to be able to have conversations with people who really wanted to hear about our experiences as young people living with type 1 diabetes.”

Scientific sessions

The collaboration between Together Type 1 and the Grand Challenge was a real highlight for all of us Young Leaders. I really enjoyed hearing the researcher I interviewed talk about his work and the impact he hoped it would have.

The main session about the Grand Challenge was really insightful and made us feel positive looking towards the future of life with type 1 diabetes. The main takeaways for me were that the big focus at the moment is on developing ways to give people with type 1 new beta cells, which seems to be very promising, moving towards a potential cure for type 1 in the reachable future.

Some researchers also talked about how they can use lessons learned from research into cancer and apply that to the diabetes research, which was very interesting to hear. It was also emphasised how important funding is for these projects.

Building networks

The Young Leaders were so pleased to meet Steve and Sally Morgan and to chat about how we have each benefited from being part of the Together Type 1 programme so far, and it was really lovely to see how much they cared about the personal impact of the programme of the lives of Young Leaders, not just the achievements and events that have taken place.

We also got to spend time with others who have lived experience of diabetes, and really enjoyed our joint session with the Dedoc voices, an international group diabetes advocates. It was also brilliant to just spend time with the other Young Leaders, as we had never met before, and by the end of the few days it felt like we’d been friends for ages.

The importance of the patient voice

On the second day, I was part of a panel discussion session about the first year of care for young people with diabetes. Not only was it such an honour to share the panel with some really inspiring people, but I also loved being able to have conversations during and after the session about the potential barriers for young people receiving optimal care.

I also had conversations with people about the mental burden of type 1 diabetes, including technology, which isn’t always considered by healthcare professionals, and can definitely be a barrier to optimal care.

Across the three days, I was so happy to see how engaged healthcare professionals were when talking to us about ways things could be improved in clinic, as well as realising how valuable our contributions can be in developing resources and programmes for other young people with type 1 diabetes.

In the future, I would love to see even more of a presence of young people at conferences, and in other spaces like DUKPC, and for more opportunities to meet and talk to researchers about their work, as this is something we don’t often get to do!

We’re grateful to Elise and Amelia for sharing what they did and learned while they were at DUKPC. It’s clear the Grand Challenge offers fresh hope to people living with type 1 diabetes.

You may also be interested in

The Grand Challenge at DUKPC 2024
A packed auditorium at DUKPC 2024
The Grand Challenge at DUKPC 2024

Read more about the Grand Challenge at DUKPC 2024.

Hear from a Grand Challenge researcher with type 1
A photo of Morgan Shaw wearing a lab coat in a lab and holding up her insulin pump.
Hear from a Grand Challenge researcher with type 1

Morgan Shaw tells us how collaboration, ambition and people with type 1 are at the heart of the Grand Challenge.

News and views
Type 1 diabetes researcher in lab with back to camera looking at microscopic cells via a screen
News and views

Stay up to date with news and views from the Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge and beyond.