The INDEPENDENT: Scientists working to find a vaccine for type 1 diabetes have said it could be developed "within a generation". READ MORE
Researchers at several UK universities are to carry out tests and trials of prototype jabs as part of a £4.4 million project announced today.
They estimate the first working vaccines to help delay or possibly prevent type 1 diabetes, which affects about 300,000 people in the UK, could be available in the next 10 years.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, Diabetes UK's director of research, said: "This research is hugely exciting because it has the potential to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living with type 1 diabetes, as well as leading us towards a longed-for cure."
People with type 1 diabetes, the most common found in children, are unable to produce the hormone insulin and require daily injections, a healthy diet and regular exercise.
The research, funded by Diabetes UK, Tesco and JDRF, is being announced at Diabetes UK's annual Professional Conference at London's ExCeL centre and will consist of four studies carried out at UK institutions.
King's College London will lead the country's first-ever trial of a prototype vaccine in children and teenagers living with the condition.
Cardiff University will aim to develop "immuno-therapy" trials in UK hospitals, training doctors and researchers, while Imperial College will look to recruit sufferers to take part and King's College will establish laboratories to study the results.
A medical assistant administers an insulin shot to a diabetes patient
Dr Rankin added: "Today, type 1 diabetes is an unavoidable condition with a huge impact on the lives of more than 300,000 people in the UK. Managing diabetes is a daily struggle and too many people develop devastating health complications or die before their time.
"These studies will take us a long way towards changing that - bringing us closer than ever to preventing and ultimately curing the condition.
"None of this will be easy or happen overnight. The first vaccines will probably help people to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes rather than preventing it entirely.
"But even this would help to reduce the risk of serious complications, such as stroke, blindness and heart attacks. In the longer term, a fully effective vaccine would represent a huge medical breakthrough and could transform the lives of people with type 1 diabetes."
Professor Colin Dayan, of Cardiff University, said: "Within four years we expect to see results from studies of more than six potential treatments, and within 10 years we hope to see the first vaccine therapies delivered to patients in the clinic."