EIT Health grants millions for the development of innovative diagnostic tools
30 January 2018
With three million Swedish kronor from EIT Health, Peter Bergsten, Professor of Medical Cell Biology at Uppsala University, has joined DeTecT2D, an international innovation project on the way to providing diabetes care with an effective and much-needed diagnostics tool.
Type 2 diabetes is one of the world’s major public diseases. There are 410,000 registered diabetics in Sweden alone, but the recognised large number of unrecorded cases prompts experts to estimate the actual figure to be closer to 600,000. There is still no rapid diagnostic tool for early detection of the disease, but researchers may now be on the way to charting biomarkers that signal the development of type 2 diabetes. The research is being conducted under DeTecT2D, an EIT Health-financed project in which core parts of the study are being carried out at Uppsala University.
“Healthcare providers are currently being referred to time-consuming glucose tolerance tests that require several hours of work,” says Peter Bergsten, Professor of Medical Cell Biology at Uppsala University. “By tracking bodily substances that signal an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, we aim to streamline the diagnosis process, reduce consumption of the world’s resources and enable earlier intervention to slow down the progression of the disease.”
EIT Health is a European consortium commissioned by the EU to create conditions for healthy lives and active ageing. With a focus on education, innovations and entrepreneurship, Uppsala University and another 130 partners are initiating joint projects that will contribute to sustainable health and medical care. The starting point is international cooperation, and DeTecT2D brings together researchers from Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
“My colleague Anders Forslund from the Uppsala University Children’s Hospital and I are studying children and adolescents in order to find alternative risk markers for type 2 diabetes,” says Bergsten. “About a year ago, I met with diabetes researchers at the University of Tübingen. They told me about their involvement with the EIT Health project DeTecT2D, a similar project focusing on adults. I contacted the project coordinator Rui Wang-Sattler in Munich. We met and by the spring of 2017 we had come to an agreement on how DeTecT2D could also include adolescents with type 2 diabetes.
With SEK three million in funding from EIT Health, Bergsten’s research team and Ali Moazzami at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences began working together to analyse samples from 350 children and adolescents in order to check them against the observations of adult populations made in DeTecT2D. The work will continue with an additional 150 samples in 2018, and Bergsten reports that the project has defined a number of potential biomarkers for further testing.
“Our goal is to create a prototype for effective and reliable diagnostics tools for adults and hopefully also adolescents at risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” says Bergsten. “This meets a need in international healthcare and is thus in line with the requirements set by EIT Health for financing an innovation project.”
Bergsten’s work in DeTecT2D will continue until 31 December 2018. He describes his experiences to date as positive, and is currently exploring options for coordinating a future project application to EIT Health.
“I’ve received a request and even if it demands a greater effort than stepping into an ongoing project, it’s an interesting thought,” says Bergsten. “For me, EIT Health has created new opportunities for exactly the type of cooperation that is sometimes needed to drive research forward and put it into application. The fact that Uppsala University also offers professional administrative support all the way from application to budget and reporting makes the process relatively simple. So if the subject is relevant and I have the knowledge to bring to the table, I am without a doubt open to new collaborations within the scope of EIT Health.”
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Contact: EIT Health at Uppsala University