Help JDRF Combat Diabetes

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the worldwide leader for research to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes, together with InnoCentive, is calling for innovative ways to approach the discovery and development of a glucose-responsive insulin drug as a means to treat all insulin-dependent diabetes.

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JDRF, in partnership with InnoCentive is looking to the global Solver Community to find a transformative and sophisticated insulin drug for patients with diabetes, in order to improve glucose control, decrease or eliminate the need to test or monitor blood glucose levels, and reduce their chances of short- and long-term diabetic complications.

"Divining a glucose-regulated insulin is, in the words of Hamlet, 'devoutly to be wished' and will require a truly innovative idea. I have high hopes for the Grand Challenge Prize to help find this idea that now lives likely on the edge of our individual experiences, using a crowd-sourcing approach involving a virtual network of scientists and non-scientists."
- William W. Chin, Executive Dean for Research, Harvard Medical School


Such a glucose-responsive insulin holds the potential to transform the lives of the hundreds of millions of people with diabetes in the world who are dependent on insulin (both type 1 and type 2).  Working only when the body needs it, a glucose-responsive insulin would deliver the precise amount of insulin in response to glucose levels, to control and maintain normal blood glucose levels throughout a daily routine with once-daily or less frequent dosing in people with insulin-dependent diabetes.  This novel form of insulin would not need to be calibrated with carbohydrates or blood glucose testing, compared to the current administration of insulin multiple times or continuously in a day.

"As our insulin preparations have improved over the past few decades, everyone would acknowledge they are far from perfect. A glucose-responsive insulin would go far beyond our current insulin treatments and in fact, would be the greatest advancement in insulin therapy since the discovery of insulin therapy 90 years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that an experienced protein chemist, a student, or someone between these two extremes will be able to partner with JDRF and InnoCentive to accomplish this challenge."
- Irl B. Hirsch, Professor of Medicine, University of Washington Medical Center-Roosevelt


Click the Image Below to view the Challenge.

The winning solution from this Challenge could be further developed into a second phase, named the “Preclinical Proof of Principle Validation” phase. This second phase would require a detailed research plan proposal, and could offer the winning Solver(s) the opportunity to become a member(s) of the team created to put the winning solution into practice.

Background: Insulin-Dependent Diabetes and the Need for Glucose-Responsive Insulin

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, causing dependence on an external supply of insulin for life. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes, as well as several people with advanced insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, must currently test their blood sugar levels and administer insulin through injections or a pump, multiple times every day, throughout their lifetime. Yet even with that intensive care, today’s insulin treatments are sub-optimal, and blood sugar levels are often too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia), resulting in life-threatening complications such as kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Hundreds of millions of people in the world are dependent on insulin (both type 1 and type 2 diabetes).

Diabetes represents a major health risk factor and is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Furthermore, it presents a serious economic issue. Estimated global healthcare expenditures to treat and prevent diabetes and its complications totaled at least $376 billion in 2010 (International Diabetes Foundation: Diabetes Atlas, 4th Edition, 2010).

Since the discovery of insulin in 1922, research advances over time have helped to improve insulin drugs, the delivery of insulin, and the management of blood glucose levels. The advent of faster-acting insulins and devices such as syringes, insulin pumps, and blood glucose meters have helped significantly improve diabetes management. However, even with diligent monitoring and progress in the development of advanced insulin drugs, type 1 diabetes (and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes) is far from being conquered or easily controlled due to the suboptimal way insulin is currently administered to people with the disease.

Currently, all insulin treatments for people with diabetes release the same amount of insulin at fixed times throughout the entire body.  However, in people without diabetes, the body secretes insulin in proportion to local blood glucose levels, delivering it to the body’s tissues and organs at the appropriate times, according to their specific needs. This helps the person without diabetes to maintain a target blood glucose level throughout the day. A glucose-responsive insulin for people with diabetes could therefore be a transformative solution, vastly improving the quality of life of people with insulin-dependent diabetes.

By posting this Challenge, JDRF is looking for novel, breakthrough ideas on the design of such a glucose-responsive insulin drug.