Lilly Canada and JDRF Canada Award Post-doctoral Fellowships in Type 1 Diabetes Research

Toronto, ON, September 22, 2017 – Eli Lilly Canada Inc. (Lilly Canada) and JDRF Canada have awarded two promising researchers each with a post-doctoral fellowship grant to pursue studies in type 1 diabetes. 

Operating through the JDRF Canadian Clinical Trial Network (JDRF CCTN), this generous initiative provides the next generation of young investigators with the opportunity to engage further in medical research associated with a disease affecting more than 300,000 Canadians. 

“JDRF is focused on funding and advancing research that will lead to a cure for type 1 diabetes, while improving the health and quality of life for people living with the disease,” says Dave Prowten, president and chief executive officer at JDRF. “By developing young, talented scientists entering this field of study, we are working together and laying the groundwork for a future without type 1 diabetes.”  

The 2017 recipients of the post-doctoral fellowship grants are:

Investigator: Anne Maria Pesenacker, PhD, University of British Columbia

Project: Measuring and Understanding Regulatory T-cell Fitness in Type 1 Diabetes Patients upon Treatment with Ustekinumab

A specialized type of white blood cell, known as a regulatory T-cell or Treg, stops immune cells from attacking the body. Autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes occur when Tregs fail, destroying insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.  This results in fluctuating blood sugar levels causing type 1 diabetes and the subsequent lifelong dependence on insulin therapy.

Dr. Anne Marie Pesenacker is exploring how Tregs function, and how best to monitor their health or fitness. Currently, it is not possible to track Tregs, nor easily assess how well they are working. Yet, there is a test used to differentiate between healthy and dysfunctional Tregs in type 1 diabetes. By specifically monitoring Treg health in Ustekinumab (a human single-cell anti-body consisting of naturally occurring proteins that regulate the immune system and immune-mediated inflammatory disorders) therapy, Dr. Pesenacker hopes to determine if the test can potentially predict who will respond to treatment. Her goal is to demonstrate how Tregs control harmful failed cells, why their fitness changes in autoimmunity and how they might be used to monitor response to therapy. Her findings may significantly advance our understanding of how Tregs become dysfunctional in type 1 diabetes, and how to use a Treg gene signature to measure and/or predict disease trajectory and treatment response.  Additionally, she hopes this research will reveal specific pathways that may change during Ustekinumab therapy, ultimately leading to the improvement of type 1 diabetes treatment to restore the immunoregulatory balance.

Investigator: Kate Verbeeten, MD, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

Project: The association of corrected and uncorrected fructosamine levels with glycemic control as determined by Continuous Glucose Monitoring: Results from the CGM TIME trial Institution

There are several tests used to measure blood sugar levels in individuals with type 1 diabetes. The most commonly employed is glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), an analysis that reflects blood sugar control over a two-to-three month period. However, sometimes it is helpful to have a measure over a shorter period, such as when individuals wish to transition to insulin pump therapy. Fructosamine, the assessment of overall blood glucose levels in diabetes over a period of two to three weeks, is a test used in some studies to date, but typically only in adults.

Dr. Kate Verbeeten’s study involves children aged 5 to 18 years, and compares their fructosamine levels to average blood sugar levels over a two-to-three week period and to those measured by a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).  Participants were part of the CGM TIME Trial, which included 144 children and adolescents diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for at least one year who were treated with insulin injections, and interested in switching to an insulin pump and using a CGM.

This research will help determine if fructosamine is a valuable test for assessing blood sugar control in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes, and if the concentration of albumin (a protein made by the liver) in the blood should be taken into account when using a fructosamine test. Following the modification of their insulin regimen, for example, monitoring and tracking changes in fructosamine levels rather than HbA1c may allow patients and their physicians to notice more quickly variations in glycemic control. This information may inspire adjustments in behavior to improve diabetes management and reduce the risk of developing long-term complications.

About Eli Lilly Canada (Lilly Canada): 

Lilly Canada was established in 1938, the result of a research collaboration with scientists at the University of Toronto which eventually produced the world’s first commercially-available insulin. Lilly Canada now employs more than 400 people across the country, working in the areas of oncology, diabetes, autoimmunity, neurodegeneration, and pain. To learn more about Lilly Canada, please visit us at

About JDRF Canada:

JDRF is the leading global organization funding T1D research. Our goal is to raise funds to support the most advanced international T1D research and progressively remove the impact of this disease from people’s lives – until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D. JDRF is the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. For more information, please visit

For more information:

Sherene Chen-See
National Communications Specialist
JDRF Canada
Phone: 647.789.2368
Email: [email protected]

Helen Stone
Communications Manager
Eli Lilly Canada Inc.
Phone: 416.694.3221
Email: [email protected]

Lets turn type one into type none