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6 million euros for European Diabetes Research Network

The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD), University of Exeter, is one of 13 academic institutions and businesses across Europe to form a 6m research and analysis network, funded by the EU for a five-year period, which is designed to investigate the possible role of virus infection in the cause of type 1 diabetes.

Proof of this concept could lead to the development of a vaccine to prevent diabetes in children.

A significant catalyst for the formation of the network, PEVNET*, was the research paper published by researchers from PCMD in collaboration with colleagues from the NHS in Glasgow and the University of Brighton in March 2009. This provided strong evidence that certain enteroviruses infect the insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreases of young people with diabetes.

PEVNET will bring together leading researchers from Finland, Sweden, Italy, Norway, UK and France who have complementary expertise in the fields of viruses and type 1 diabetes; PEVNET will also include commercial partners. It will network these individuals to create an interactive environment where new results and developments can be shared openly and rapidly.

Part of the work of PEVNET will be to create a new Europe wide biobank of contemporary and updated tissue samples from people who died soon after developing type 1 diabetes. Called EuroPod, this biobank will feed into a number of PEVNET studies investigating improved methods of viral detection in the pancreas; the nature of the islet cell infection; and how the presence of virus can promote the autoimmunity that leads to type 1 diabetes.

The team from PCMD, headed by Professor Noel Morgan, Director of the Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, will lead one of the work packages and they will aim to determine the characteristics of the virus (or viruses) that might be responsible for triggering type 1 diabetes and will study how viral infection causes these changes.

Said Professor Morgan: "The formation of PEVNET is significant for many reasons, not least in formalising a Europe-wide network of researchers who have contributed to the current evidence linking certain virus groups with type 1 diabetes. Key, too, is the formation of EuroPod, a new biobank that will allow us to build on our existing samples in order to access contemporary material which is crucial to continued progress. This is an exciting programme which will further our research into type 1 diabetes and its possible viral cause as well as offering longer term improvements in diagnosis and patient care."


Contact: Andrew Gould
The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry

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