Diabetes SA Research Grants Program

Diabetes SA announces the 2022 Research Grant Recipients.

Diabetes SA is pleased to announce the following researchers have been successful in securing funding from the Diabetes SA Research Grants Program. Both will be awarded with $100,000 for their research project.

  Dr Lisa Nicholas
The University of Adelaide.
Defining the contribution of epigenetics to the intergenerational cycle of type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal people.

Children born to mothers with diabetes in pregnancy are more at risk of developing diabetes and obesity. Given the much higher rates of diabetes in pregnancy amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and the widespread health inequalities experienced by these communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are disproportionately impacted by the negative consequences of being exposed to diabetes in the womb. There is, therefore, a pressing need to identify risk markers in these children to facilitate early prevention of these conditions and that will also provide information about the mechanisms behind how diabetes develops in these children. This study will measure changes in a DNA chemical tag in the blood of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children born to mothers with diabetes in pregnancy to determine how well it predicts future obesity and diabetes risk. We are grateful to Diabetes SA for supporting our research.

Dr Lisa Marie Nicholas leads a research group at the University of Adelaide where she is interested in understanding how a child’s metabolic destiny is determined even before birth by their mother’s metabolic health during pregnancy. This is achieved through studies in animal models of obesity and diabetes in pregnancy as well as in human birth cohorts such as the Pregnancy and Neonatal Diabetes Outcomes in Remote Australia study. Dr Nicholas undertook her PhD under the mentorship of the current Chief Scientist of South Australia, Prof Caroline McMillen and following that completed post-doctoral training in pancreatic beta-cell biology at Lund University Diabetes Centre, Sweden and in developmental programming at the University of Cambridge, UK.

  Associate Professor Richard Young
The University of Adelaide.
Blocking intestinal sweet taste for better glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes.

The gut plays an essential role in controlling the rate at which the sugars we ingest enter the blood, and their subsequent metabolism within the body. My team based at The University of Adelaide have discovered that the gut can detect and respond to sweet in a similar manner to the tongue. This gut ‘sweet taste system’ in turn, can control the rate at which glucose enters the blood.

In separate experiments we have found that the gut ‘sweet taste system’ is ‘overactive’ in people with type 2 diabetes, while its excess activation by supplementing low-calorie sweeteners in capsules to people without diabetes, accelerates glucose uptake, alters gut bacteria and elevates blood glucose levels.

The novel research supported by Diabetes SA represents a critical ‘next step’ to determine whether the gut ‘sweet taste system’ can be targeted for beneficial effects on blood glucose. We will supplement a blocker of gut ‘sweet taste’ in capsules over four weeks to people with type 2 diabetes, and test whether this slows glucose entry and improves control of blood glucose. This novel research holds much potential as a new and safe way to better manage blood glucose levels.

Support from Diabetes SA will enable us to determine whether potential benefits of blocking gut ‘sweet taste’ result from positive changes in gut bacteria, slower glucose uptake, or both. It is a privilege to partner with Diabetes SA in this research, which stands to be transformative for blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes.


Research Advisory Committee

CHAIR    

Lynn Bonython is the newly appointed Chair.

As a carer for her partner who had type 1 diabetes for 51 years, Lynn experienced the adventures – and occasional misadventures that are familiar to those who share their life with a person who has diabetes.

The complexities of life become magnified by daily diabetes management: forward planning, timing of meals and medication, “just in case” supplies… the list goes on. This experience has led to a passion for helping others who are in the same situation: both the people with diabetes and those who love and care for them.

Having worked as an educator for the last 40 years, Lynn understands the importance of planning, structure and teamwork when working towards the achievement of goals. She recognises that decision-making needs to be based on sound knowledge and strong data. And she know individuals matter, which is why she is committed to supporting Diabetes SA’s research projects and wide-reaching evidence-based education programs through the Board.

“Being on this Committee means that I can work with researchers and consumers to ensure that the valuable donations from our supporters are invested where they would have long-term, sustainable significance to the South Australian community. "

CONSUMER REPRESENTATIVES

  Dr Anthony Roberts 
A Senior Consultant at the Endocrine & Metabolic Unit at the RAH, the Coordinator of the Thyroid and Parathyroid Clinic at the RAH and a Consultant Endocrinologist in private practice. He is the Principal Investigator at SA Endocrine Research Pty Ltd and has conducted over two hundred international clinical trials. He is also very committed to post graduate teaching and gives numerous lectures each year. Anthony’s interests include type 1 and type 2 diabetes with a special interest in insulin pump therapy, continuous glucose sensing, diabetes related complications including neuropathy, diabetes in pregnancy and new agents available through clinical trials.

“I offered my services to the Diabetes SA Research Advisory Committee as an extension of my existing, long term support. Diabetes SA are making these important donations available to diabetes research and wish to support their efforts”. 


    Dr Cher-Rin Chong 
Recognised as a future leader in multidisciplinary research in pharmacology, molecular cardiology, diabetes, and metabolism translating research from bench to bedside, she has numerous achievements from discovering how metabolism affects biochemical signalling and clinical outcomes, to understanding enantiomer-selective pharmacokinetics of drugs. Her collaborations have led to changes in clinical practice guidelines with these research successes being recognised internationally. She is committed to the education of the next generation of scientists and is passionate about contributing to diabetes research capabilities and professional service activities in South Australia.

“I wanted to do something for Diabetes SA to contribute back for supporting my previous research. It’s a very exciting project and I really wanted to be involved and better serve people living with diabetes and saw it as an exciting opportunity”.
 
  Dr Abe Chandra 
A vascular and general surgeon working in the private sector and a military surgeon. With considerable experience in bench-lab and clinical research in Australia and New Zealand most of his research has focused on diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The clinically based research has included urban and rural-remote settings and indigenous and no-indigenous people. Patient care is paramount to Dr Chandra particularly as he has been treating patients with diabetes for more than 20 years. He has had extensive research experience on the management options for treating diabetes including transplantation of insulin producing islet cells. He is also an enthusiastic educator and is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, and Flinders University.

“Diabetes SA are investing in the future through this Research Grants Program. There are so many exciting bodies of work currently forging ahead to understand more about the prevention, detection, and management of diabetes. I want to be a part of that journey in every way I can”. 

  Dr Richard Young 
A basic scientist, Associate Professor and Director of the Intestinal Nutrient Sensing Group at The University of Adelaide and a Senior Research Fellow at SAHMRI. Richard has led an internationally recognised translational research program at the interface between glycaemic control and gut function in health and type 2 diabetes for the past decade. His research focuses on identifying precision targets for the next generation of diabetes drugs and providing an evidence base to lead the public debate on the health consequences of sweeteners. He has pioneered concepts on intestinal sweet taste systems in humans and described detrimental consequences of its dietary activation in low-calorie sweeteners in health and diabetes. This has been reflected in his record of grants, publications, awards, collaborations, industry involvement and invited national and international chairs and talks.

“As a former Diabetes SA Grant recipient, I felt I could directly support the efforts of the Association to distribute these vital funds by volunteering my time to the Research Advisory Committee. I know how important these grants are first-hand”. 

CONSUMER REPRESENTATIVES

Peter Blackmore 
Peter Blackmore has recently retired from full-time work after the last 23 years with Saab Australia, ultimately as a Program Manager responsible for a portfolio of externally funded revenue projects and internally funded R&D projects. He has a strong high-tech engineering, project and commercial background supported by extensive experience in Defence and Aerospace as well as non-defence commercial projects ranging from small-and-quick through to significant size, complexity and value.

“I look forward to contributing as a Consumer Rep and being involved in the vital commitment to research funded by Diabetes SA where the opportunity not only to assist in the selection of research proposals but also to influence the future of Diabetes SA research strategy, I feel, is both exciting and important”.


Trina O’Donnell 
Trina has been a part of previous research developments from her early career reviewing patent applications, through to her current role in reviewing applications for clinical trials, and social science research in diabetes. Trina believes the development of future strategies for Diabetes SA is key to its continuing and expanding role in the diabetes community.

"I have benefited from the education programs offered by Diabetes SA since my diabetes diagnosis. However, I now also recognise the broader role Diabetes SA plays through its support of internal and external research".