DiaUnion – Medicon Valley Center for diabetes, autoimmunity and prevention

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system erroneously destroys its own insulin producing cells. Insulin is a hormone you cannot live without, as it enables the transport of nutrients in the form of glucose to cells, and you will die if you do not receive insulin artificially. In contrast to type 2 diabetes, the disease is not lifestyle-related and can therefore not be cured or prevented through healthier living. Type 1 diabetes affects randomly, usually during childhood or at a young age, and once you have contracted the disease you will have to live with it for the rest of your life. Sweden and Denmark are among the countries in the world with the greatest incidence and prevalence of type 1 diabetes. In Sweden, 2 children are diagnosed daily, and around 50,000 people have the disease. In Denmark the figures are correspondingly high: Approximately 30,000 Danes have type 1 diabetes, 4,000 of which are children and young people.

Over a long period of time, the Øresund Region has built up strong and internationally recognized competencies within the fields of screening, genetics and immunology in type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. In the Capital Region of Denmark, the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen therefore participates in world-class studies such as the Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium (T1DGC), INNODIA and TrialNet, where children with an increased genetic risk of developing type 1 diabetes are screened and monitored, and in the past decade, there have been several measures taken to create closer research cooperation across Øresund. If you combine forces in a joint research effort, synergy effects can be achieved which strengthen the preconditions for research and create a more efficient use of shared resources. A coordinated effort in this area has the potential to turn Medicon Valley into Europe’s largest and leading hub in this area. This will make the region more attractive for investment in research and development and attract businesses to the region. That is why we have created a partnership so that we can take the initiative to create a project that focuses on diabetes and autoimmunity, based on the region’s leading research capacities, namely the Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and the Lund University Diabetes Center.

In January 2020, DiaUnion started with the ambition to

  • Strengthen research capacity through the initiation and financing of 2 PhD/postdoc projects, distributed with 1 on each side of Øresund
  • Draw up a plan for an educational cooperation between the regional universities and the Danish Diabetes Academy with the aim of securing the next generation of researchers
  • Create the conditions for a closer cooperation with regards to treatment and prevention, as well as for the exchange of patients across the Danish-Swedish border
  • Develop cooperation with other research groups within the fields of screening, genetics and immunology, such as the T1D Task Force of the Danish Diabetes Association
  • Strengthen existing clinical studies in the prevention of autoimmune diabetes
  • Identify cooperating partners from the industry and conclude public-private partnerships in order to achieve the long-term vision
  • Create a project secretariat – a management unit – for the management of communications, project management and administration located in the Danish-Swedish Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA)
  • Prepare the implementation plan for the realisation of the Medicon Valley Center for Diabetes, Autoimmunity and Prevention.

The project will run for 2.5 years and the initiative is funded by Interreg Öresund-Kattegat-Skagerrak, Region Skåne, Region Hovedstaden and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.