McQueen Awarded $600K to Develop Predictive Tool for Type-1 Diabetes

Working with researchers from the UK’s University of Exeter to address a world-wide challenge

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R. Brett McQueen, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, along with his colleagues at the University of Exeter, UK, have been awarded a two-year, $600K grant from JDRF to develop a comprehensive web-based tool to inform global public health adoption and therapeutic investment decisions on the costs and benefits of identifying people at risk of type-1 diabetes (T1D) world-wide. McQueen is principal investigator on the project, with Exeter co-investigators Dr. Richard Oram, MD, associate professor, Diabetes UK Harry Keen Fellow; Prof. Jonathan Fieldsend, Professor of Computational Intelligence; and Dr. Lauric Ferrat, PhD, applied mathematician.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how human body turns food into energy. Individuals with T1D do not make enough insulin, or very little insulin, which prevents blood sugar from entering the cells and builds up in the bloodstream, causing life-threatening complications such as high blood sugar levels and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). T1D is an autoimmune disease that affects both adults and children at any age regardless of age, family history, or lifestyle choices. 

Dr. McQueen’s background includes experience in cost-effectiveness, cost of implementation, and affordability of medicines or other health care interventions, making him uniquely qualified to lead the project development; preventative screening for T1D is costly, so patients frequently present in an emergency state and are in need of immediate medical care to survive.

 With the grant, Dr. McQueen and his team hope to build a platform that will be used by public health entities, such as cities, states, and health departments, to inform their decisions on T1D prevention, such as, should the health entity invest in a TD1 screening tool? The multi-dimensional research team includes computer scientists, pharmaceutical economists (like Dr. McQueen), and clinical experts in T1D, which will allow them to build a platform that’s relevant to multiple disciplines.

 As the grant application explains, “There are multiple factors that decision makers face when considering population-level screening including but not limited to: the cost of screening tests which is influenced by how screening is implemented; the age and number of times to screen children; potential strategies for educating families and providing additional treatment options to delay or prevent transition to type 1 diabetes; and the potential long-term benefits and costs after identifying patients at high risk of type 1 diabetes. While researchers have addressed these factors in isolation, there have been no attempts to combine all of these factors and “solve” for a set of screening strategies that provide the best value for money.”

 With the new platform, McQueen and the team hope to change that. The grant period begins Oct. 1, 2022 and comes to a close Sept. 30, 2024.

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