Diabetes Research Program

The Diabetes research program at CFRI aims to improve the lives of children with diabetes by advancing knowledge of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, through innovative and multi-disciplinary basic and clinical diabetes research. Research is aimed at understanding the causes of types 1 and 2 diabetes and improving treatments.

The program brings together researchers from a variety of backgrounds – including virology, genetics, immunology, islet biology, and clinical diabetes research – to tackle this complex disease. Diabetes program investigators have extensive ties with the international diabetes research community and participate in international clinical trials for diabetes.


Vancouver Diabetes Research Day 2014 

2014 Vancouver Diabetes Research Day

The first item is to announce we held a successful Vancouver Diabetes Research Day for the research community from across Vancouver. The inaugural Vancouver Diabetes Research Day was held on World Diabetes Day (November 14th 2014). November 14th is acknowledged by the World Health Organization as World Diabetes Day and is held on the anniversary of Dr Frederick Banting’s birthday, the Canadian medical scientist who won the Nobel prize in 1923 for discovering insulin.

Our event was held off-site at the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Alumni House. We hosted 93 attendees from the University of British Columbia, UBC-Okanagan and University of Northern British Columbia. This event, organized and led by trainees, showcased our strong local diabetes research community, with 14 talks from graduate student and post-doctoral trainees, a poster session, three young investigator talks, and one plenary speaker (Dr. Greg Korbutt from the University of Alberta). Plans are underway to hold the Vancouver Diabetes Research Day event again in November 2015.


Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Awards 2014-2015

Award Amount: $25,000-$50,000 for one year
Application Deadline: January 30, 2015,  4:00 p.m.

The Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Awards support pilot studies in childhood diabetes research which are aimed at finding a cure for or improving the lives of children with diabetes. A Canucks for Kids Fund (CFKF) Diabetes Catalyst grant may; generate preliminary data, create or test new methods and technologies, create new collaborations and/or encourage multi-disciplinary research, stimulate new directions in diabetes research, or launch a research project from an early stage to a more comprehensive investigation. 

The Canucks for Kids Diabetes Catalyst Award was established in 2009 by the generous support of the Canucks for Kids Fund charity. In 2015 the fifth competition is being held to stimulate new research by members of the CFRI Diabetes Research Program at the Child & Family Research Institute. 

Meg Hughes
Diabetes Research Program Manager
Child Family Research Institute
Phone: 604-875-2000 ext. 4905


Alberta-BC Islet Workshop 2015

The 4th Annual Alberta-British Columbia Islet Workshop is being organized by Dr Francis Lynn from the Diabetes Research Program at CFRI. This joint workshop, sponsored by the Universities of Alberta and British Columbia, will be held at the Silver Star Resort near Vernon BC between February 9-12th, 2015.  

We are excited to announce that our visiting guest speakers this year will be Alan Attie from the UW-Madison and Marc Prentki from the Université de Montréal. Topics that will be included in the sessions are: stem cells and development; islet transplantation and immunology; insulin secretion and islet biology; beta-cell mass; genetics and epigenetics; new techniques and methodologies etc. Please visit for more information: www.isletmeeting.ca


Celebrating the retirement of Dr. Janet Chantler

On Friday, October 3, the Diabetes Research Program hosted a special event to celebrate the retirement of one of its founding principal investigators, Dr. Janet Chantler. Read more in CFRI's Research Reporting.

Pictured (left to right): Dr. Aubrey Tingle, Dr. Chantler and Dr. Bruce Verchere.


UBC promotions mark career milestones for CFRI investigators

Francis Lynn and Pascal Lavoie

Congratulation to:

  • Dr. Francis Lynn, CFRI Scientist, promoted to Associate Professor with the Division of General Surgery in the Department of Surgery at UBC.
  • Dr. Pascal Lavoie, CFRI Clinician Scientist and Neonatologist at BC Children's and BC Women's, promoted to Associate Professor with the Department of Pediatrics at UBC. 

Canucks for Kids Fund: Diabetes Catalyst Grant recipients


The Canucks for Kids Fund: Diabetes Catalyst Grants jumpstart exciting and innovative projects aimed at finding a cure for diabetes and improving the lives of children with diabetes.

Thanks to the generous support of the Canucks for Kids Fund and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, this pilot funding competition has invested $435,000 in 12 inventive research projects since its inception in 2009.

We’re pleased to congratulate this year’s grant recipients:

  • Dr. Brad Hoffman 
    Project: “Identification of trxG complex factors involved in β-cell specification and maturation” $40,000
  • Dr. Francis Lynn 
    Project: “High efficiency generation of human embryonic stem cell reporter lines to improve in vitro formation of beta cells” $35,000
  • Dr. Shazhan Amed
    Project: “Engaging youth through technology-based behaviour tracking, goal setting, and   interactive communication – the future of childhood obesity prevention” $25,000

Applications to the Diabetes Catalyst Grant Competition are evaluated by researchers from across the country. This year, the reviewers ranked all applications extremely high before ultimately selecting the three winners.

The annual internal grant competition is open to on-site members of the CFRI Diabetes Research Program. CFRI scientists who are not on-site members of the Diabetes Research Program are encouraged to apply with an on-site program member as a co-investigator. For more information, contact Meg Hughes, the Diabetes Research Program Manager, at mhughes@cfri.ca.


Diabetes cover story

New research from Clara Westwell-Roper, Dr. Jan Ehses and 
Dr. Bruce Verchere was featured on the cover of the May 2014 issue
Diabetes. The image (left) is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a macrophage. 

The publication, "Resident macrophages mediate islet amyloid polypeptide–induced islet IL-1β production and β-cell dysfunction," holds promising implications for better long-term treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes. 


Diabetes Discovery


Speaking of Children (Spring 2014)

Dr. Bruce Verchere is interviewed in the latest issue of Speaking of Children magazine. Read more: Sweet Discovery: A potential cure for type 1 diabetes is on the horizon.


Can a promising treatment for type 1 diabetes eliminate the need for insulin?

CFRI researchers were recently awarded an exciting new grant to support clinical trials of a drug with the potential to reduce or eliminate the need for insulin injections in children and adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Read more.


Type 2 diabetes and the immune system: Q&A with Clara Westwell-Roper

“If we can target the inflammation that compromises insulin production, then maybe we can ‘turn down the dial’ on type 2 diabetes and prevent long-term damage,” says Clara Westwell-Roper, a UBC MD/PhD candidate at CFRI and 2013 Featured Trainee

Read more.

New role for insulin: affects immune system as well as metabolism

Researchers have found a previously unknown link between metabolism and immunity, discovering more about why chronic inflammation develops in people who have obesity.

In new research, Dr. Megan Levings and colleagues demonstrate that insulin can damage regulatory immune cells, causing more inflammation in fat tissue.

Read more.


Four CFRI PhD students receive Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

September 23, 2013 - The Vanier Scholarships are intended to attract and retain world-class doctoral students to Canada and are awarded to students from around the world who have displayed leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement. The scholarships are worth $50,000 per year for three years.

Among the recipients was Dominika Nackiewicz (PI: Dr. Jan Ehses) for her project: "Using regulatory macrophages (Mregs) to promote beta cell regeneration during islet inflammation."

Read more.

Q&A with Dr. William Gibson: Translating research into clinical practice

August 26, 2013 - Weaver Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that is distinguished by accelerated growth with rapidly-maturing bones. This extra growth begins before birth and continues throughout childhood. 

In 2011, Dr. William Gibson (Diabetes, Nutrition & Metabolism and Genetics & Health) led the team that pinpointed the gene. They did this by identifying several mutations that cause Weaver Syndrome, and their discovery led to a breakthrough in improving care for patients with the syndrome by enabling a definitive DNA-based diagnosis. 

The Gibson Lab has leveraged this opportunity to provide biobanking support and diagnostic testing to clinicians across Canada and internationally.

Read more.


Early puberty and mental health in girls

August 7, 2012: A recent Globe and Mail article looks at whether there is a link between early puberty and depression in girls. One of the experts interviewed for the story was Dr. Dina Panagiotopoulos, a researcher in the Diabetes Research Program at CFRI.


2012 Canucks for Kids Fund Diabetes Catalyst Grant Competition Results

The Diabetes Research Program recently ran its third internal grant competition for the “Canucks for Kids Fund” Diabetes Catalyst Awards. The committee received 11 excellent innovative research proposals. After an external peer review process the successful grant applications for the 2012 Catalyst Grant Competition were:

  • William Gibson, $50,000 grant
    Role of p300 protein in B-cell function and survival
  • Megan Levings, $50,000 grant
    Gene signatures of T regulatory cells as molecular biomarkers in type 1 diabetes

Diabetes researcher honoured with new award

CFRI scientist Dr. Francis Lynn was announced as the first recipient of the new Alan Permutt Career Development Award by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The award honours research in the field of beta cell therapies.


12th International Conference on the Immunology of Diabetes

February 15, 2012: Dr. Bruce Verchere and Dr. Rusung Tan are co-chairs of the 12th International Conference on the Immunology of Diabetes, taking place on June 15-June 19th, 2012 in Victoria, British Columbia.

IDS 2012 will feature novel discussions on a wide range of current topics, including clinical trials, the microbiome, immunopathology of type 1 diabetes, issues of transplantation, and new models of diabetes. Click here for more details on the early abstract deadline (Feb 29th) or visit www.ids2012.ca for more details about the conference.

Genetic variation increases risk of metabolic side effects in children on some antipsychotics

January 24, 2012: Researchers have found a genetic variation predisposing children to six-times greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome when taking second-generation anti-psychotic medications. The research is published today in the medical research journal Translational Psychiatry. Dr. Dina Panagiotopoulos and Dr. Angela Devlin were co-authors of the study.


Gene discovered for Weaver syndrome

December 15, 2011: Scientists have found a gene that causes Weaver syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that typically causes large size at birth, tall stature, developmental delay during childhood, and intellectual disability. Published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the discovery means that testing the EZH2 gene for mutations could help families who are seeking a diagnosis for their child. The study was led by Dr. William Gibson.


Gene therapy stimulates protein that blocks immune attack and prevents type 1 diabetes in mice

July 5, 2011: Increasing a specific protein in areas of the pancreas that produce insulin blocks the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes, report CFRI researchers in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, published early online. The research team includes Dr. Bruce Verchere, Dr. Loraine Bischoff, Dr. Joel Montane, and Dr. Rusung Tan.


Geneticist's lab ready to aid obese: Specialist hopes more MDs make use of facility

May 12, 2011: Dr. William Gibson talks to the Times Colonist about research that aims to help people with rare genetic obesity disorders.


A weighty issue: How much sugar is too much?

March 15, 2011: Dr. Daniel Metzger talks to the Vancouver Sun about sugar in beverages.


Canucks for Kids Fund donates $5 million to BC Children's Hospital

March 14, 2011: The Canucks for Kids Fund announced a gift of $3-million to support BC Children's Hospital Foundation's Campaign for BC Children and $2-million to the Diabetes Research Laboratory at CFRI.


Global BC story on diabetes research

December 12, 2010: Dr. Bruce Verchere spoke to Global BC TV about diabetes research.


T cell discovery shows promise for Type 1 diabetes treatment: UBC-CFRI study

October 5, 2010: Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Diabetes Research Program at CFRI have identified the role of a type of T cell in type 1 diabetes that may lead to new treatment options for young patients.


Researchers from the Diabetes Research Group receive funding from Canada Foundation for Innovation

May 13, 2010: We are pleased to congratulate diabetes research scientists Dr. Francis Lynn and Dr. Brad Hoffman who recently received $250,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation through the Leaders Opportunity Fund for their project "Beta Cell Genesis Research Facility."