Dr Megan Penno

Research Grants Program 2020 – awarded $100,000

Deep profiling for early biomarkers of progression to islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes in mother-infant dyads participating in the ENDIA study.

Dr Megan Penno, The University of Adelaide, Women’s & Children’s Hospital & Walter & Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research 

From growing up in country Victoria, to a PhD exploring protein in sheep, Dr Penno has always held an interest in what causes conditions and finding the first biological “red flags”, or biomarkers, that something is going wrong.

She came to SA in 2006, after graduating from the University of Melbourne, and joined a newly opened proteomics laboratory at the University of Adelaide. There she worked with a team looking for biomarkers of stomach cancer with the aim of creating an early diagnostic test.

Dr Megan Penno has remained at University of Adelaide and since 2012, has been the National Project Manager for the Environmental Determinants of Islet Autoimmunity (ENDIA) study (endia.org.au). The project is focused on identifying ways to prevent type 1 diabetes and has recruited 1500 women and children across Australia.

Dr Penno and her team intend to look at the link between environmental exposures early in life that trigger the body’s immune system to attack and destroy the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, which leads to type 1 diabetes. Understanding what causes type 1 diabetes and identifying biomarkers of the earliest stages of the condition will open a doorway to preventing type 1 diabetes in the future.

Dr Penno said, “Programs such as the Diabetes SA Research Grants Program are extremely important since national funding programs are becoming increasingly competitive and SA is leading the way with this ENDIA project”.

We wish Dr Penno and her team all the very best and look forward to welcoming her at future speaking engagements.