The UK BioIndustry Association ‘Celebrating UK Bioscience’ campaign highlights the impact that the UK bioscience industry makes on delivering ground-breaking treatments to patients. Here we take a look at type one diabetes, an autoimmune condition, where the body’s own immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Cambridge based BIA member Arecor, partnered with BIA charity of the year JDRF, is working to develop a concentrated form of insulin – a critical step towards the advancement of the miniaturisation of delivery devices.

Type one diabetes is a chronic, life threatening condition that has a life-long impact on those diagnosed and their families. In type one diabetes, the body’s own immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produces insulin. It is not caused by anything a child or parents did or didn’t do and cannot be prevented; it is not linked to being overweight, lack of exercise or other lifestyle factors.

The condition often strikes in childhood and stays with people for the rest of their lives. Type one diabetes affects 400,000 people in the UK, including over 29,000 children. Long-term complications of type one diabetes include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation. On average the life expectancy of a person with the condition is shortened by 10–15 years.

Many people with type one diabetes rely on insulin injections and up to 10–12 finger prick tests every day just to stay alive, but people are increasingly using insulin pumps rather than injections to deliver insulin and flash or glucose monitors to keep track of glucose levels. Next generation device technology such as wearable, continuous administration patch pumps and implants are critical developments for people living with diabetes. They help improve control over the levels of glucose in the blood and they could help reduce adverse states such as hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), as well as overall complications and mortality.

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Cambridge based Arecor are working on concentrating insulin 5- to 10-fold so that the pump technology that delivers insulin can be made smaller. The smaller the pump, the more concentrated the dose of insulin needs to be.

Concentrating insulin is a challenging process as aggregation can take place when the proteins and peptides within the insulin start to stick to each other during the concentration process. This changes the makeup of the insulin and can mean that it no longer works when it is used.aggregation-picType one diabetes charity JDRF will provide Arecor with up to $900,000 in milestone funding over 12 months to complete product development of a stable concentrated insulin.

Watch our video and hear more about the research from Arecor, JDRF and Simon Vinnicombe, whose son George lives with the condition.

You can also download our accompanying infographic here.