Published on 11 October 2023

Dr Misra’s research on understanding reasons for risk of developing type 2 diabetes recognised.

Research work carried out by DRWF Trustee Dr Shivani Misra on the causes of type 2 diabetes has been recognised with a prestigious award.

The study by Dr Misra, Consultant in Diabetes and Metabolic Medicine and a Senior Researcher at Imperial College London, and DRWF Trustee, looked at the underlying reasons for the elevated risk of type 2 diabetes among South Asian populations, an underrepresented group in diabetes research.

Dr Misra’s work has been rewarded with the 2023 recipient of the Precision Diabetes Medicine Award, presented jointly by the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

The award recognises three outstanding researchers: one winner and two runners-up. The winner is granted a research fund of £232,500 (Danish Krone 2 million), while each runner-up receives £58,200 (Danish Krone 500,000).  

The award recognises researchers in both clinical and basic science whose work is expected to accelerate translational research and improve possibilities to introduce new innovations into diabetes care. 

Research samples and a pipette.

Dr Misra is a Wellcome Trust Fellow and Honorary Consultant in metabolic medicine at Imperial College London and Imperial College NHS Trust, and has received numerous awards in recognition of her contributions to the field, including a Future Leaders Mentorship Award from the EFSD in 2017. 

Dr Misra’s research has focussed on addressing gaps in understanding of the epidemiology of type 2 diabetes within South Asian populations using precision medicine tools.  

Dr Misra said: “It is a huge honour to receive this prestigious prize jointly from the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the EFSD that will help advance our understanding of type 2 diabetes risk in south Asian people.

“It is of vital importance that precision medicine approaches serve under-represented populations in research, so I am truly grateful to have our work recognised and I’m looking forward to working with collaborators to deliver our innovative project.” 

According to current research, people of South Asian descent face a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people of white European descent.

They also tend to develop the condition a decade earlier and at a lower body weight. However, the reasons for this elevated risk remain inadequately explored, based on previous studies.

DRWF researcher Dr Shivani Misra with Sarah Tutton (Chief Executive of DRWF)

Most research into type 2 diabetes has focused on white European populations, even though an estimated 100 million of the 540 million adults worldwide living with type 2 diabetes are in South Asia.

For precision diabetes medical research it is therefore important to studying diverse ancestries. This aspect forms the unique strength of Dr Misra’s research project.

The research plans to study information from a population study of over 30,000 south Asian and white European people recruited from 2003 to 2008 in the UK. This extensive study aimed to establish risk factors for cardiometabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes.  

More recently additional figures have become available enabling study of the original participants over 20 years.

Dr Misra’s project will be the most extensive contemporary prospective study to date, facilitating the assessment of the heightened risk of type 2 diabetes among South Asian people and the risk of progression from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes in South Asian people relative to white Europeans.  

Professor Coen Stehouwer, Chairman of EFSD and part of the review committee for the award, said: “The proposal’s strengths include its clinical relevance, as it addresses the impact of ethnicity on precision diabetes medicine, an area not sufficiently explored in existing studies.

“The proposal holds promise for targeted interventions aimed at reducing health disparities within at-risk South Asian populations and stands as an outstanding contribution to the field of precision diabetes medicine.” 

Drwf Research Microrna Study Web

In addition to the primary Precision Diabetes Medicine Award presented to Dr Misra, two distinguished researchers have been selected as runners-up, each receiving grants of DKK 500,000 for their research projects. 

Professor Cyrielle Caussy from Lyon University Hospital Center in France leads the research project Type 2 DIAbeTes with NAFLD: innOvative biomarkers of disease progressioN and clInical outComes, aiming to explore the potential of initial non-invasive biomarkers to identify which type 2 diabetes patients are at risk for progressing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Professor Eran Elinav from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel is the second runner-up, with a project titled Decoding the Molecular Microbiome-driven Mechanisms of Rapid Post-bariatric Improvement in Diabetes. His research project aims to uncover the mechanisms behind the rapid improvement in glucose regulation seen in individuals with type 2 diabetes following bariatric surgery. 

The Precision Diabetes Medicine Award was established in 2021 and has been awarded annually since then, marking the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin in 1921, its first use in humans in 1922, and its first Nobel Prize recognition in 1923. This year’s award is to be the last.

Martin Ridderstråle, Senior Vice President and head of Medical Science at the Novo Nordisk Foundation, said: “The field has advanced hugely in the last few years, with this award contributing by supporting vital research and raising awareness of the transformative potential of precision diabetes medicine.

“Although the award is ending, the Novo Nordisk Foundation remains committed to realising that potential through bringing scientists together around a common terminology and agenda, as well as the translational work that goes on at the research and clinical centers and other strategic initiatives.”   

Professor Stehouwer added: “Over the last three years, the EFSD and Novo Nordisk Foundation Precision Diabetes Medicine Award has supported a number of promising novel approaches in precision diabetes medicine. The work of the awardees has contributed to more effective and personalized management of diabetes, which can ultimately improve the overall quality of life for people with this chronic condition.” 

The awardees are invited to deliver an award lecture at the Future of Precision Medicine Symposium 2023, scheduled for 9-10 November 2023 at the Novo Nordisk Foundation in Copenhagen. Additionally, they will be able to contribute an article from their perspective to Diabetologia. 

Dr Misra recently helped develop the new NHS programme T2Day: Type 2 Diabetes in the Young programme, created to support a rising number of 18 to 40-year-olds being diagnosed with the condition. Read more here.

Dr Misra was the recipient of a DRWF 3-year Clinical Fellowship in 2012, and won the 2017 International Diabetes Federation Europe Prize for young researcher for her MY DIABETES study.

The study focused on classifying types of diabetes in people with young-onset diabetes from different ethnic groups, to investigate whether ethnicity has an impact on diabetes presentation and type. One of the key findings from the study was the discovery that genetic forms of diabetes are being misdiagnosed in people from ethnic minority groups.

In 2018, Dr Misra was named in the Evening Standard 1000 health influencers for her work on the misdiagnosis of thousands of patients due to misconceptions about the role of ethnicity and diabetes. She also received the Outstanding Educator Award at the 2021 Quality in Care Diabetes awards for her MY DIABETES study.

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