This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.
By Monica Westley
As a scientist and a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, I was compelled to fully understand the etiology of the disease. I created a group called “The Sugar Mamas” to connect parents to live, interactive interviews with researchers. I reached out to scientists and scheduled regular “Lunch and Learns.” After each Skype call, parents went away feeling hopeful and inspired. It was a powerful connection for parents to understand how hard scientists were working on this disease. Last fall, I shared my process and helped Beyond Type 1 implement the connection of their community to researchers as well. I am a true believer in the adage, “the more information, the better!”
Creating The Sugar Science
Through countless interviews with researchers in the type 1 diabetes (T1D) field, I began to understand recurring pain points in the scientific community that was hindering more rapid progress. With the data in hand and a personal call to action, I began to build a digital platform in March 2020. We currently are a devoted and dedicated team of 23 talented volunteers, the majority with a close connection to T1D. Together we created The Sugar Science (TSS) to serve the wishes of scientists and catalyze a cure.
Our platform has already received endorsements from top researchers in the T1D world, including Dr. Douglas Melton (Harvard) and Dr. Alice Long (Benaroya), who act as our advisors. The Diabetes Research Connection (DRC), as well as Unanimous A.I., have partnered with us. Gaining validity, we were semi-finalists for the Women Who Tech grant, and we won a Google grant.
TSS revitalizes scientific communication in the same way that our social communications have transformed by digital tools over the last decade. Social networking and AI tools on the TSS platform are poised to bring together a field that has been silo-ed for decades, not due to the considerable effort of scientists, but due to the multi-factorial nature of the disease.
The Sugar Science provides tools that scientists working in T1D have requested. Current tools include The Collaborator, Thought Experiment, and KG.
The Collaborator is “speed dating” for ideas. Scientists post just three slides with short descriptions of their idea. The community gives feedback as to whether this is a “good idea,” and other scientists can connect to collaborate. A “match” can submit a fast-tracked grant to the DRC for funding.
Thought Experiments (TE) is a tool where scientists can post controversial (or not) ideas and the community can weigh in. Scientists whose answers gain “likes” from the community will gain a reputation. These scientists will be invited to participate in a SWARM AI event, tackling the toughest questions in type 1 diabetes along with experts in the field.
KG is the Knowledge Graph. We are building a knowledge graph to reflect all historical papers against a backdrop of negative data. This will give scientists studying T1D a new perspective on work that has already been done in the field as well as show places where work needs to be done.
Overall, we remain true to our mission: to help T1D scientists connect, collaborate, and fund their best ideas. TSS features podcasts and interviews with scientists. We are scheduling “off the record” private brainstorms. We want to elevate young scientists interested in T1D and support them. In this spirit, we are hosting a PITCH COMP for post-docs and graduate students who study T1D on September 25, 2020. It will be a chance to shine for labs looking to connect, and the best pitches will be awarded funding. This event is particularly meaningful with the COVID-19 pressures that the scientific community is experiencing.
Please feel free to support our mission. The general public can donate (we are a tax-deductible foundation) on our website, via our socials or using Amazon Smile. All donors will receive our monthly digital newsletter.
As a parting comment, I would say for myself and my team, for us it is all about a cure. We know first-hand what this disease is like, what it does to those who have it and their families. As an all-volunteer organization, no one is paid. And yet, we are getting things done, moving forward. Our team at The Sugar Science is all about the end game: a cure.