Frank Martin, PhD, director of research at JDRF, discusses the organization's efforts to educate regulators about the disease.
There's been a lot of research lately about viewing T1D as an autoimmune condition. In other autoimmune conditions, evidence shows the importance of getting disease-modifying therapies to patients early, before disease progression. Is JDRF carrying this message to payers now, even before therapies are available?
Again, we have JDRF staff, we have JDRF advocacy volunteers who are continually talking to the regulators, really educating them about what the scientists know already to be true. Things like T1D has stages, T1D doesn't start the day you go onto insulin. We have to educate the regulators about that. We have to educate them and tell them that, well, the disease has actually already started, and that means it is treatable many years before you go onto insulin. So right now, the regulators are taking that advisement, as they consider approval of teplizumab, which will go into a stage 2 population, people who are auto antibody positive but not yet insulin dependent.
This is part of JDRF's normal activity. We have a constant line of communication with these payers and these regulators to voice the patient need and to voice the most up-to-date and accurate views of the research field on the subject. Things like stages of disease, things like when a certain therapy might be most beneficial for a person.
As you said, for many other autoimmune diseases, the earlier you get in the better. T1Detect and the other screening programs are working towards that. We're identifying the people earlier. Now those people will be asking their clinicians, "Well, I need a drug" and those clinicians will be asking their payers "You need to approve a drug." So it's sort of bold, we're putting pressure on these these organizations from multiple fronts, from the patient level, from our organization level, from the researcher level, all with the best interests of our T1D community at heart.
What excited you about the research supported through JDRF?
Listen, great things are happening right now. I've been at the organization now, maybe 7 years. Initially, I was getting really frustrated with the pace of science. I'd say, "Gosh, it's going to be this many years until we get the results of that, and this many years, we get the results of that." But then I started to learn how JDRF works, and we have so many pokers in the fire. You're always getting a new result and a very important new result. It might not be in your area of specific interest. But there's always something important happening for the T1D community.
[April 15] there was an FDA advisory committee meeting around cell therapy, and T1D. Earlier this year, Vertex kicked off a clinical trial of an encapsulated beta cell product to treat people with T1D. There's a multitude of things happening. I'm very proud of what the organization does. I'm very proud of the T1D research community here.
I think our T1D patient community should really pay attention to what's going on in clinical space. There are a lot of clinical trials available for them right now. They may not be a drug trial, but they might get to wear a new device that might be better than the one they were wearing before. They might get to try a drug that might improve their glucose control. That gives them a glimpse into the sort of things that might actually be in the hands of their prescribing physicians in the years to come.