The DIRECT (“DIabetes REsearCh for patient straTification”), consortium funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), joins scientists and clinicians working in academia with the pharmaceutical industry to tackle the current bottlenecks in diabetes drug development and to tailor treatment to individual patients, an approach known as personalised medicine.

The consortium aims to develop tests, using genetic and other markers, that can predict which patients will experience a faster progression of diabetes and indicate those that will respond well to particular diabetes treatments. This will result in the development of new drugs and the better targeting of existing drugs in order to improve outcomes for patients with diabetes.

Professor Christopher Jennison, a statistician in the University’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, will be involved in designing the clinical trials for the project.

He explained: “While most people assume that Type 2 diabetes is one condition, we anticipate that, in fact, patients can be split into different, identifiable subtypes that respond differently to the available therapies.

“In collaboration with our consortium partners, we shall be looking at the genetics of patients and identifying biomarkers to indicate which individuals will respond to a particular treatment. We’ll then use statistical methods to design a clinical trial to test whether these markers can be used to accurately predict the treatment that will work best for each patient.

“Type 2 diabetes is a pandemic disease which currently affects 285 million people worldwide, and this number is increasing. Personalised medicine will mean doctors can tailor the drug to the patient, finding the right treatment for each individual.”

The project includes leading European experts from 21 academic institutions and four pharmaceutical research organisations. Other UK universities working on the project are the Universities of Dundee, Exeter, Oxford and Newcastle and University College London.

The project is supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a unique Public Private Partnership (PPP) between European Union and the pharmaceutical industry (represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations / EFPIA). The EU contributes to this PPP a total of €1b over ten years, which is matched in-kind by the EFPIA member companies.