Congress must extend critical federal funding for type 1 diabetes research
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While Congress debates healthcare and insurance markets, it’s easy to forget that the government plays a special role in research that helps millions of Americans live fuller lives. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies are the largest sources of health research funding — not just in the United States, but worldwide — with the money used to develop therapies and find cures for the diseases that most afflict Americans.

More than 1.25 million people in the U.S. live with type 1 diabetes (T1D); constant control of their disease is critical to survival. The Special Diabetes Program (SDP) at the NIH has long had bipartisan support and has delivered life-changing therapies allowing many more Americans to live longer, healthier lives.

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This week, my son Jonathan and I are back in Washington, D.C. with JDRF, the leading organization that funds T1D research, for its Children’s Congress, urging the House and Senate to renew the SDP for another three years. Because of federal funding for diabetes research by the SDP, there has been significant progress for better treatments. It has shown tangible results by helping scientists make significant advances in prevention studies, treatments and research to achieve the ultimate objective: a cure.

I’ll never forget the moment, just a year ago, when Jonathan’s physician told us he had a spot on a clinical trial for the first-generation “artificial pancreas,” the first system to automatically dose insulin to improve blood sugar management. It dramatically improves the lives of people with T1D -— and research from SDP helped make it possible.

In that moment, our lives changed. I knew it would make a difference and transform how Jonathan manages his T1D.

Being part of a clinical trial is a lot of work — more monitoring, frequently having blood drawn. It’s been a sacrifice, but well worth it. Jonathan’s blood sugar levels are in much better control and his lows are almost nonexistent. That wasn’t always the case.

The last time our family came to Washington was in 2011, for JDRF’s Children’s Congress. Jonathan was 7 years old; he told our members of Congress that we needed more research and innovation so kids like him could get better care. Together, our community asked for help, and Congress gave it. Since then, the SDP has provided crucial funding for a range of therapies and investigations — including the development of the artificial pancreas.

For the past seven years, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to check my son’s blood sugar. Since Jonathan has had his artificial pancreas system, I don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night anymore. It’s a new and fantastic normal, but we’re just getting started.

Every day, more Americans are being diagnosed with T1D. We need devices that can fully automate insulin delivery. We need more funds for prevention treatments so others don’t get this disease in the future. And we need to continue efforts for a full cure. I’m excited that there will be nearly 165 children with T1D joining us this week in urging for the SDP renewal.

As a mother, it’s hard to believe that my teenage 6-foot, 5-inch son is my little Jonathan. And if you watch him on the basketball court or doing the high jump, it’s also hard to believe he has T1D. Jonathan is living proof that federal investments in research make a difference in the lives of people with T1D.

Multiple-year funding is essential to continue large-scale trials, proactively plan next steps for research programs and allocate research dollars effectively. That’s why the SDP must be renewed by Congress prior to expiration on Sept. 30. Thanks to the leadership of Senate and House Diabetes Caucus leaders like Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGun proposal picks up GOP support Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD MORE (R-Maine) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenHomeland Security searching some social media doesn't violate privacy The feds shouldn't blackball Kaspersky without public evidence Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny MORE (D-N.H.), as well as Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), 75 senators and 356 representatives have signed a letter supporting the SDP. The time is now to renew this bipartisan program that is making such a difference in the lives of so many.

Platt is the 2017 chairwoman of JDRF’s Children’s Congress, the largest grassroots advocacy event supporting T1D research.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.