Congress Renews Funding for Special Diabetes Program


On December 22, 2020, the 116th Congress renewed the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), providing $150 million annually in type 1 diabetes research funding until 2023. This passage is the program’s longest extension since 2014.

Originally, the SDP was introduced in 1997 after a U.S. Congressional Diabetes Research Working Group reported limitations and lack of progress in diabetes research due to low funding. Since then, the SDP has helped fund and drive many scientific advances including artificial pancreas technology, beta cell replacement techniques, improvements to continuous glucose monitors, a deeper understanding of what fundamentally causes type 1 diabetes and more.

Although the SDP widely receives bi-partisan support, it is part of larger budgetary legislation and can be impacted by larger national discussions. It is often tacked onto unrelated legislation and gets caught in partisan arguments over various funding proposals. Because of this, the SDP can sometimes be renewed for multiple years at a time, while other times it is only approved for short periods to keep funding going while greater budgetary negotiations continue. Without multi-year funding, researchers and scientists often have to stop-start important work, and the lack of reliable and consistent funding can sometimes deter researchers from joining the type 1 diabetes research field in the first place.

Once approved, the type 1 diabetes portion of the program is overseen by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) as part of the National Institute of Health and collaborates with other institutions, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers are invited to apply for funding based on current innovations in the field.

Alongside funding, the NIDDK established a collection of research tools to allow future scientists and labs to build upon previous information. In other words, researchers no longer have to start from ground zero and can use previous samples, technology, etc. as part of their new research.

JDRF has been a long-time advocate for the SDP and considers securing multi-year renewals of the program its top legislative priority. The SDP has directly impacted many significant advances in cure therapies, prevention studies and treatments. Since its beginning, the program has demonstrated positive outcomes and solutions in the diabetes world and generates popular support from politicians across the aisle. With its annual cost of $150 million, the SDP is an integral part of the Federal investment in diabetes research.

WRITTEN BY Makaila Heifner, POSTED 01/07/21, UPDATED 11/28/22

Makaila was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 16 months old. Before joining the Beyond Type 1 team in 2019, she worked at several diabetes camps, including Camp Leo and DYF. Makaila earned her BA in Global Studies and a minor in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley. When she isn’t editing articles, Makaila is a fan of soup, public radio and live music. Check her out on Instagram: @makailaheifner.