New York, NY, October 16, 2012 — Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.  Approximately one-third of people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) develop diabetic kidney disease, known as diabetic nephropathy – characterized by the slow deterioration of the kidneys and their function. In what is the largest analysis of the complication to date, JDRF today announced a more than $7 million, three-year initiative to explore the genetic components of diabetic nephropathy, forming an international and collaborative undertaking that will build on previous research and expand our understanding of the condition. This initiative began with a scientific workshop in December 2010, organized jointly between JDRF and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).ADA will also fund a research proposal arising from this initiative to Robert Hanson, M.D., M.P.H, at the Diabetes Epidemiology & Clinical Research Section of the NIDDK, NIH.

The JDRF Genetics of Diabetic Nephropathy Collaborative Research Initiative will provide funding for three years to four main institutions leading the project: the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Jose Florez, M.D., primary investigator); Joslin Diabetes Center (Andrzej Krolewski, M.D., Ph.D., primary investigator); the University of Toronto (Andrew Paterson, M.D., primary investigator); and the University of Virginia (which will serve as the central site providing genotyping for all other centers involved, led by Stephen Rich, Ph.D.. Each grant includes multiple collaborators and support research around the globe, which along with United Statesand Canada include the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Finland and the Republicof Ireland.

“JDRF is proud to be spearheading this project, which is helping to fill a huge gap in research into diabetic nephropathy,” said Helen Nickerson, Ph.D., JDRF’s senior scientific program manager of complications. “Throughout the years, smaller studies have increased our insight into possible genetic factors associated with diabetic nephropathy; but we determined that the most effective way to tackle hurdles in this research would be to pool, compare, and expand knowledge in this area from scientific groups and patient cohorts around the globe.”

Severe cases of diabetic nephropathy can eventually result in kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Although tight glycemic control can reduce the onset of renal complications, T1D can still lead to ESRD. Interestingly, some patients who have lived with diabetes for a long time do not develop diabetic nephropathy, while others who have had diabetes for a shorter length of time quickly progress to ESRD. Research has pointed toward genetic factors for their perceived role in the risk of developing diabetic nephropathy, but scientists do not yet have a full picture of the specific genes involved. The JDRF Genetics of Diabetic Nephropathy Collaborative Research Initiative aims to address these remaining enigmas.

The three initial key activities of the collaborative project include: looking for genes that differ between people with T1D who do or do not have diabetic nephropathy; identification of genes which predict how quickly a person with T1D may develop ERSD; and identification of genes which predict rapid progression of decline in renal function.

“By supporting more extensive studies and creating a platform for widespread collaboration, JDRF is striving to better identify ways to predict, prevent, and treat this devastating complication of diabetes. We hope that this research will lead to new drug targets and biomarkers for diabetic nephropathy.” Dr. Nickerson said. “To be in a position to join together the best scientific teams in the world in the area of diabetic nephropathy genetics is a privilege, and we look forward to new findings that will result from this important initiative.”