Project information

Develop glucose responsive insulin to treat type 1

‘Smart’ or glucose-responsive insulins are being designed to only turn on when they’re needed and to turn off when they’re not. JDRF is supporting research to develop this pioneering treatment. These insulins could make hypos history and help ensure perfect glucose control throughout any given day.

October 2016 - October 2018

Charity information


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  • Need


    Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, life-threatening autoimmune condition, affecting 400,000 people in the UK. The condition causes the body’s immune system to turn against insulin-producing cells. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and if left untreated can lead to a coma and even death. Treatment involves manually counting carbohydrates and injecting insulin but this can be difficult to get right and over time, poorly controlled blood glucose levels can lead to serious complications.


    Dr John Fossey at the University of Birmingham is leading a study to develop a ‘smart' insulin that becomes active in the body when blood glucose levels rise, and becomes inactive again as those levels fall. By delivering a controlled dose of insulin, as needed and without intervention, the treatment would give tight blood glucose controI to reduce the risk of complications and hypos and effectively take away the burden of type 1 to drastically improve quality of life.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Develop molecular level containers capable of holding insulin in the body and releasing as needed.


    » Support a research assistant to explore and test materials capable of containing glucose responsive insulin in the first year of Dr Fossey's study.
    » Fund the laboratory consumables and small equipment needed to carry out this study in the first year.

    If successful, this project will deliver materials capable of carrying glucose-responsive insulin as a treatment for type 1.

  • Impact


    By developing the molecular-level materials needed to deliver ‘smart insulin’, Dr Fossey's study could progress this research to the next step and begin trialling glucose responsive insulin as a treatment for type 1 diabetes. This research could one day lead to a single daily, or weekly, injection for people to control their type 1. Although this research is at an early stage, at JDRF we believe this idea could be utterly transformative for people with type 1.


    A risk associated with any medical research project is the loss of key staff. If this occurred there would be a short delay in the running of projects whilst the team recruited new members of staff to the project. Appropriate procedures are in place to manage other risks.


    Researchers are required to produce annual progress and final research reports to JDRF. The reports are translated by our research communication team who make them accessible to a lay audience. We then share this information on our website & in our supporter magazine Type 1 Discovery.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £80,000

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      Amount Heading Description
      £48,800 Post-doctoral fellow Salary costs for a Post-Doctoral Fellow who will conduct the laboratory based work of this project.
      £31,200 Consumables Laboratory consumables and small equipment needed in the first year of this study.
  • Background


    This project is taking place at the University of Birmingham. The University’s School of Chemistry, where Dr. Fossey’s team is based, has undertaken world-leading research for over a century and remains at the fore-front of scientific discovery.


    Dr John Fossey is a Senior Lecturer in Synthetic Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, a Royal Society Industry Fellow and International Representative for Chemistry.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    JDRF is the type 1 diabetes charity, improving lives until we find the cure.

    We are the world’s leading charitable funder of type 1 research, and in the past 40 years we have funded £1 billion of the best research to cure, treat and prevent the disease. We work with academia, industry and governments to make sure that this research has the greatest possible impact on the lives of people with type 1 now and in the future.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dr John Fossey

    Dr John Fossey is a Senior Lecturer in Synthetic Chemistry at the University of Birmingham and Royal Society Industry Fellow.