Steve Morgan Foundation donates £50 million into the race to cure type 1 diabetes

Steve Morgan Foundation donates £50 million into the race to cure type 1 diabetes

25 Apr 2022

Steve Morgan Foundation donates £50 million into the race to cure type 1 diabetes

Steve Morgan Foundation donates £50 million into the race to cure type 1 diabetes

  • Diabetes UK and JDRF UK launch pioneering £50 million partnership with Steve Morgan Foundation
  • Historic investment will drive forward type 1 diabetes research and see the UK lead the race to a cure
  • Five-year funding programme will investigate new treatments and cures for type 1 diabetes, and to reduce risk of devastating complications

Today (Monday 25th April), as part of celebrations marking the centenary anniversary of the first use of insulin to treat type 1 diabetes, Diabetes UK and JDRF UK are delighted to announce an historic, game-changing £50 million partnership with the Steve Morgan Foundation (SMF), to transform the lives of people living with type 1 diabetes and lead the global race to a cure.

The Steve Morgan Foundation’s £50 million donation is the largest-ever single gift in the UK for diabetes research. Over five years, it will fund the SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge which will cultivate collaboration between world-leading researchers, scientific organisations, and diabetes charities to drive innovation and accelerate research breakthroughs worldwide.

This unprecedented investment will bring the UK’s two leading diabetes charities together like never before, joining forces to drive forward type 1 diabetes research, and paving the way for the development of new treatments and a cure.

The SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will focus on three key research areas:

  • Treatments to stop the immune system’s destruction of insulin-producing beta cells: Striking at the root cause of the condition – the immune system attack – to prevent new cases of type 1 diabetes altogether and protect beta cells in those already diagnosed.
  • Treatments to replace or rescue insulin-producing beta cells: Replacing the insulin-producing beta cells that have been destroyed by the immune system to restore the function of the pancreas.
  • Novel insulins, for example those that respond to changing blood sugar levels: These insulins could eliminate dangerous blood sugar highs and lows, reducing the risk of devastating complications and removing the extreme psychological burden of managing type 1 diabetes.

With these three areas in mind, the scientific community is being called on to develop ambitious, innovative and collaborative research proposals, with the first funding calls opening in 2022.

The Steve Morgan Foundation founder Steve Morgan, and his wife and SMF Trustee Sally Morgan, are driven by their personal connection with the condition. Their son Hugo was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven. Through this pioneering partnership with Diabetes UK and JDRF UK, they are committed to creating a step-change in type 1 diabetes research, improving the lives of up to 400,0001 people in the UK, their families and carers, and the lives of those around the world living with or caring for someone with type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas can no longer make insulin and blood sugar levels become dangerously high. People with type 1 diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels and calculate the exact amount of insulin to take, several times a day.

The condition can lead to devastating complications such as sight loss, nerve damage and foot problems that can result in amputation. Only around 30% of people with type 1 diabetes are able to keep blood sugar levels within the range that will reduce their risk of long-term complications.2 Living with type 1 diabetes is a relentless balancing act, requiring round-the-clock self-management, and for the last 100 years, insulin has been – and remains – the only treatment.

Steve and Sally Morgan, Founders of the Steve Morgan Foundation, said:

“We’re so incredibly proud to announce this landmark partnership with Diabetes UK and JDRF UK. With the expertise of the two leading diabetes charities in the UK, and our shared ambition to improve the lives of people with type 1 diabetes, the SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will supercharge type 1 diabetes research, with the aim of having new treatments and ultimately a cure.

“We know from our own experience the impact that type 1 diabetes has on family life – it’s something we carry with us every day. But with research we can change that, and allow people with type 1 diabetes and their families to live without this relentless, lifelong condition.

“We want this ground-breaking partnership to inspire and motivate other funders to join in the shared ambition of the SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge, paving the way for a better future for those living with type 1 diabetes and their families.” 

Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, said:

“We’re delighted to launch this prestigious partnership with the Steve Morgan Foundation and JDRF UK. This unparalleled investment will change the course of type 1 diabetes research forever, galvanising the diabetes research community and accelerating us towards a cure that will change millions of lives not only in the UK but worldwide.

“We’re incredibly grateful to Steve and Sally Morgan for their £50 million investment and their commitment to transforming the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. This is a call to arms for the scientific community, and we look forward to working with JDRF UK to unite the brightest minds in type 1 diabetes research to fuel new breakthroughs, together.

“For the last 100 years insulin has been the only treatment for the condition, but this pivotal moment for type 1 diabetes marks the dawn of a new century of discovery. Type 1 diabetes is relentless, but so are we, and this investment catapults us towards a world where type 1 diabetes finally relents, and diabetes can do no harm.”

Karen Addington, Chief Executive at JDRF UK, said:

“This ground-breaking partnership, the UK’s largest ever single philanthropic gift for type 1 diabetes research, will catalyse medical research in a way never done before. In this golden age of type 1 diabetes research, advances in immunotherapy and stem cell research have put us within touching distance of functional cures.

“JDRF was founded on the values and practice of collaboration, both in the UK and internationally, and together with the Steve Morgan Foundation and Diabetes UK, we will drive research further, leading from the UK and drawing on JDRF’s global network of research excellence.

“I always think about the critically ill, eleven-year-old boy, Leonard Thompson whose life was saved 100 years ago, the first person ever to receive a dose of insulin. The Nobel Prize winning discovery of insulin was one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. Together, through the SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge we will match the ambition of those scientists a century ago in our drive and expertise to cure type 1 diabetes.”

Jayne Fairclough’s daughter, Libby, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2019, aged three. Jayne said:

“As a family, we’ve sometimes struggled since Libby’s diagnosis. And as Libby is only five, the responsibility for keeping her healthy is on us as her parents. The relentlessness of type 1 diabetes, and the way it impacts a family, can never be underestimated.

“This huge investment from the Steve Morgan Foundation is incredible news to us as a family. We are so hopeful that the future will be a life for Libby that’s free of the challenges of type 1 diabetes, where she will be able to go about her day without the constant checking of her blood sugars.

“Thank you to everyone who has made this happen, and to all the researchers who will be working hard towards a cure for Libby and everyone living with diabetes.”

The Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, JDRF UK Ambassador, said:

“Today’s announcement of a £50 million research partnership to accelerate cures and better treatments for type 1 diabetes is historic. The partnership between JDRF, the Steve Morgan Foundation and Diabetes UK will embed the UK’s position as a global leader in type 1 medical research and international research excellence.  I look forward to seeing the SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge propel progress in a new era of type 1 diabetes research breakthroughs.”