Brookes part of UK-Mexico collaboration to tackle type 1 diabetes

Thursday, 03 November 2016

UK-Mexico research collaboration

Oxford Brookes’ Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Global Partnerships, Professor Linda King visited Mexico last month (25-27 October) to be part of the official launch of the project and meet with the partners.

The international collaboration aims to establish a clinical-grade human islet isolation facility as a precursor to delivering an islet transplant programme in Mexico to treat patients with type 1 diabetes. In addition, the collaboration involves an innovative pre-clinical research project to evaluate the role of gene therapy in improving transplant outcomes, with the ultimate aim of enabling islet transplantation in children.

This project, TRANSDIA, involves collaboration between the Centre for Molecular and Cell-based Therapeutics (CMCBT) and three medical institutions that are members of the NIH Organ Donor Network in Mexico City, Oxford Expression Technologies Ltd, Oxford Brookes University and the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford. 

It is funded through the Newton Fund – UK-Mexico Collaborative Industrial R&D Program. In the UK, funding has been provided by Innovate UK and in Mexico funding has been provided by CONACYT (the Mexican Council for Science and Technology). 

I was delighted to be able to visit Mexico City to take part in a symposium to launch this exciting international collaboration. The provision of quality human islets will also give us opportunities to increase research and innovation capacities in both the UK and Mexico to help overcome current challenges and improve transplantation success in the future.

Professor Linda King, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University

It is estimated that there are more than 35 million patients with type 1 diabetes worldwide. This form of diabetes usually has its onset in children and adolescents and since the 1980s, Mexico has witnessed a year on year increase in the incidence of type 1 diabetes such that it is now the most frequent metabolic disorder affecting children and young adults. 

The disorder is caused by auto-immune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells within the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Pancreatic islet transplantation is a minimally-invasive treatment that can replace beta cells, thereby normalising glucose levels and reversing the life-threatening complication of hypoglycaemia unawareness (dangerously low blood sugar levels without warning signs). Over 50 per cent of patients undergoing this treatment no longer require insulin injections. Currently, Mexico does not have an islet transplant programme. 

Professor Linda King, who is the lead for the project at Oxford Brookes said: “I was delighted to be able to visit Mexico City to take part in a symposium to launch this exciting international collaboration.  Pancreatic islet transplantation can reverse diabetes in selected adults, providing a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.  Establishing an islet isolation facility in Mexico City is the first step towards the overall goal of delivering a clinical pancreatic islet transplantation programme. 

“The provision of quality human islets will also give us opportunities to increase research and innovation capacities in both the UK and Mexico to help overcome current challenges and improve transplantation success in the future.” 

This project is one of four, announced back in February, funded by the Newton Fund and involving Oxford Brookes researchers working in developing countries. The Newton Fund is part of the UK’s aim to help with science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of targeted developing countries. 

Professor Robert Possee, CEO of Oxford Expression Technologies Ltd, is the lead for the UK-Oxford partners and Professor Paul Johnson, Director of the Oxford Islet Transplant Programme, is the lead researcher for the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences at the University of Oxford.

Oxford Expression Technologies (OET) is a spin out company launched jointly by Oxford Brookes University and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in 2007.

Dr Juan J. Plata-Muñoz, Medical Director of CMCBT, is the lead for the Mexican partners. CMCBT is a biotech company founded by researchers of the Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico City in 2013 and launched as a spin out company in 2015.