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A US chemist has won a $1.4m grant for repurposing immunosuppressant therapies in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Arturo Vegas, who works at Boston University College of Arts and Sciences, was awarded the grant this week from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The grant will be used to help Vegas ascertain how repurposed immunosuppressant drugs can effectively protect pancreatic beta cells from autoimmune attack, which characterises type 1 diabetes.

Vegas believes that this strategy could lead to better results than conventional type 1 diabetes therapies because it is an early intervention in the disease development process.

He hopes to create a system where small molecules attach to these drugs, binding to receptors which are present on the surface of insulin-producing cells.

The active compound of the drugs would subsequently remain to protect against the immune system’s attack on the insulin-producing cells.

Vegas insist this strategy could be effective in the early stages of type 1 diabetes and work as a prevention strategy.

But his primary aim is working towards preserving a patient’s own insulin beta cells against rogue immune cells from the start.

This is the second grant Vegas has received: in September he obtained NIH funding upon winning their New Innovator award. At the time, he was working towards developing immunosuppressant therapies targeted at pancreatic islets.