“Diabetes is a huge burden to our health system right now,” said Professor Gary Lewis, who will co-lead the SPOR Network in Diabetes and Related Complications.

U of T home to new national network on diabetes

U of T researchers contribute to patient-focused research networks

The University of Toronto will be home to one of five new patient-focused research networks announced today by Federal Minister of Health, Jane Philpott.

The networks, part of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), will receive a total of $62 million over five years from the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and an additional $126 million from partners.

It will include the SPOR Network in Diabetes and Related Complications, which will be co-led by Professor Gary Lewis, director of the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist with the University Health Network. 

“Diabetes is a huge burden to our health system right now. One in four Canadians have diabetes or pre-diabetes and it’s costing us $16 billion per year to treat. By 2020, we anticipate that more than 3 million Canadians will have diabetes. We have an opportunity to harness the tremendous research being done in Canada to find better solutions,” said Lewis, who will lead the network with Professor Jean-Pierre Després of Université Laval.

The network will be based in Toronto at the University Health Network and University of Toronto. The other partner organizations are Université de Sherbrooke, Université Laval, Université de Montréal, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Manitoba and the University of New Brunswick.

A focus for the network will be the impact diabetes has on vulnerable groups, including Indigenous peoples, immigrants, women and lower socio-economic groups. “We know that diabetes has a disproportionate impact on these groups, but there is still much more research to be done on why and how to deliver appropriate and culturally sensitive treatments,” said Lewis.

The network will involve the direct participation of patients, who will help direct and review research. “I have been living with T1D for 49 years, which is what compels me to fight back and be a member of this SPOR Network,” said patient advocate Debbie Sissmore. “I am delighted to represent and advocate for the Canadians that need help in the prevention and treatment of diabetes related complications.”

“This strategy shows how the federal government can work with partners across the country to improve health care for Canadians while, in this case, responding to the public health challenge of chronic diseases,” said Philpott.

In addition to hosting the SPOR diabetes network, U of T researchers will be participating in similar networks focused on chronic pain, chronic kidney disease and child disability.

“These networks will produce the innovations that improve the health of Canadians and position Canada as a global leader in research on these chronic diseases,” said CIHR President Dr. Alain Beaudet.

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