This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. Many milestones later, a lot has changed in the care and treatment of diabetes, but one very important thing has not, according to ADA President, Medicine & Science, Ruth S. Weinstock, MD, PhD.
Cutting-edge research continues to drive new therapies, new technologies, and new hope for a diabetes cure, Dr. Weinstock said during her presidential address Sunday, June 27, at the Scientific Sessions.
During the 45-minute talk, Dr. Weinstock reflected on some of the lessons learned from the past and discussed how those lessons continue to inform the present and inspire the future of diabetes research. The address, Our Past, Present, and Future—The Journey and the Dream Continue, can be viewed by registered meeting attendees at ADA2021.org through September 29, 2021. If you haven’t registered for the Virtual 81st Scientific Sessions, register today to access all of the valuable meeting content.
“One of the lessons from the discovery of insulin is to remind us how important it is for us to support high-risk innovative ideas, new and junior investigators—in addition to more established investigators—and basic, clinical, and translational research,” said Dr. Weinstock, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Chief of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, State University of New York Upstate Medical University.
Like most groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs, the discovery of insulin introduced the scientific community to new questions and new challenges, some of which continue to this day, she said.
“As wonderful as the discovery of insulin was, there was a need for purer and more physiological preparations and better insulin delivery systems,” Dr. Weinstock said. “We have better insulins now, but their administration is still burdensome and associated with challenges and, importantly, hypoglycemia and hypoglycemia unawareness remain problems, increasing in prevalence with longer diabetes duration.”
The more recent invention and availability of continuous glucose monitoring systems has helped countless people with diabetes avoid serious hypoglycemia, she added. And the future holds promise with the release of new insulin analogs, new oral drugs and non-insulin injectables, and new technologies like better continuous glucose monitors and hormone delivery systems.
“These advances, many of which are being discussed at these Scientific Sessions, are applauded and will greatly improve the lives of many people with diabetes,” Dr. Weinstock said.
And while every milestone and new discovery brings the world a step closer to preventing and curing diabetes, Dr. Weinstock said the diabetes research and patient care community must continue to work together to advocate for increased research funding to support the recruitment and training of the next generation of diabetes investigators. The ADA initiative Health Equity Now has attracted significant funding that is being used to support important new programs, and the ADA is funding new grants aimed at improving strategies and discovering new approaches to address disparities and improve outcomes, Dr. Weinstock noted.
“A priority of the ADA is to reduce health disparities,” she said. “We need to partner with leaders and organizations in our communities to address structural inequities that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority groups, diversify our workforce, and encourage and mentor young people from under-represented groups to pursue careers as scientists, health care providers, and work in other fields related to diabetes.”
Dr. Weinstock concluded her address with a call to action.
“I urge all of you to support the ADA’s mission. Donate, encourage donations, volunteer, mentor, spread the word, correct misinformation, oppose bias and inequities, be open to new ideas, and support the ADA’s advocacy efforts to increase state and federal funding for diabetes research and programs,” she said. “We must use this moment in history to work together to accelerate change.”