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Finn Kristensen

Finn Kristensen

Program Director, DiaUnion

+45 4053 9000


Medicon Valley Center for diabetes, autoimmunity and prevention

Establishing infrastructure for early detection of type 1 diabetes and 2 related autoimmune diseases


Type 1 diabetes is an incurable autoimmune disease that strikes randomly and independently of personal lifestyle. 50,000 Swedes and 34,560 Danes are affected by type 1 diabetes [1]. The disease requires life-long, complicated treatment with insulin and places a heavy burden on the patient around the clock. Therefore, not even a third of patients reach the treatment target of 52-53 mmol/mol [2][3], resulting in debilitating complications and overmortality. The direct medical costs of type 1 diabetes amount to EUR 3-3,500 annually per patient. In addition, there is a productivity loss of EUR 5-5,500 per year per patient, bringing the total annual costs for Swedish and Danish society to EUR 640 million [4].

To reduce the burden on patients and the cost to society, research and development of therapies against type 1 diabetes must be strengthened. With early intervention, the prospect is that new drugs can delay, and in the long term completely stop, the development of the disease. Early intervention requires early detection of individuals at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Today, no type 1 diabetes detection is carried out in Sweden and Denmark, and a global lack of screening programs constitutes a major bottleneck for early detection and the development of new therapies. Screening must be carried out by a neutral body, and the bottleneck must be alleviated by building an infrastructure for early detection of type 1 diabetes in a collaboration between the health sector, research and industry.


  1. Diabetes Associations in Sweden and Denmark
  2. Danish Diabetes Database. National annual report 2018/2019.
  3. National Swedish Diabetes Registry Annual Report 2021.
  4. JDRF, type 1 diabetes Fund, Health Advances. White paper. Modeling the Total Economic Value of Novel Type 1 Diabetes (type 1 diabetes) Therapeutic Concepts. 2020.


Against this background, DiaUnion’s goal is to build the missing neutral infrastructure for early detection of type 1 diabetes.

DiaUnion 1.0 successfully established a cross-regional research collaboration between Lund University and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen. Here, type 1 diabetes was linked with two related autoimmune diseases, celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis, which holds huge potential for research. In a feasibility screening program, DiaUnion’s ground-breaking new multiplex analysis methods and laboratory automation were tested and verified.

At the same time, in these years a strong increase in interest is seen in the early detection of other autoimmune and chronic diseases as more and more therapies for prevention and intervention are being developed. Detection using screening and genetics has only been developed to a lesser extent and the results from DiaUnon will be able to be used in many other programs for the early detection of autoimmune and chronic diseases.

DiaUnion 1.5

In DiaUnion 1.5, the development of effective methods is continued by extending the screening to first-degree relatives so that a total of 4,500 people are screened and 650 traced. It is expected to lead to the following results:

  • Documentation of difference in effectiveness between tracing based on first-degree relatives and the background population.
  • Testing and verification of new blood sampling technology for type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis against traditional sampling tubes.
  • Streamlining multiplex screening using advanced digital technology.
  • Development of the Genetic Risk Score for type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis. Genetic profiling of patients has great potential in clinical studies and in the future treatment of patients.

All of this has not been previously investigated and will be applicable and of great interest to other academic groups as well as industry. At the same time, it creates the framework for establishing a large-scale detection program based on autoantibody screening combined with genetic screening, which is an essential part of the foundation for an infrastructure for detecting type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis.

The project will further strengthen the cross-regional cooperation between Lund University and Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen and create value for the overall quadruple helix structure in the region: Patients, industry, academia and healthcare. The long-term goal is to document the societal benefit of a large-scale detection program for type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and autoimmune thyroiditis with a view to implementing the DiaUnion program as a public health service.

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