Liverpool businessman Steve Morgan donates £50m to help find cure for diabetes

“We know from our own experience the impact that type 1 diabetes has on family life – it’s something we carry with us every day.”

Liverpool-born businessman Steve Morgan made a £50 million donation to help advance treatment and try to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

The huge sum is the largest-ever single gift in the UK for diabetes research and will go to the to the UK’s two leading diabetes charities - Diabetes UK and JDRF UK.

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The founder of Redrow has been driven by a personal connection with the condition. His son, Hugo, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged seven and his wife, Sally, also has the condition.

Liverpool businessman Steve Morgan. Photo: Steve Morgan Foundation

The £50m donation, over five years, will fund the Steve Morgan Foundation (SMF) Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge which will cultivate collaboration between world-leading researchers.

This unprecedented investment will see Diabetes UK and JDRF UK join forces on type 1 diabetes research with the hope of ultimately finding a cure.

Mr Morgan told the BBC: “We realised that there was a problem with lack of funding. We have funded several million pounds worth of research but research is always short term with this, it never really gets going, so we knew we had to do something about this and advance it.”

Who is Steve Morgan?

Steve was born in Liverpool and started his first construction company at the age of 21 with a loan of £5,000.

He founded Redrow, one of the UK’s most successful housebuilders and a FTSE 250 company.

Steve was Non-Executive Chairman for many years and Redrow had built over 100,000 new homes before he stepped down from the Board in March, 2019, still remaining a major shareholder.

He received a CBE in 2016 for Philanthropic Services via the work of the Steve Morgan Foundation following an OBE in 1992 for Services to the Construction Industry.

What’s been said?

In a joint statement, Mr and Mrs Morgan said: “We’re so incredibly proud to announce this landmark partnership with Diabetes UK and JDRF UK.

“With the expertise of the two leading diabetes charities in the UK, and our shared ambition to improve the lives of people with type 1 diabetes,

“The SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will supercharge type 1 diabetes research, with the aim of having new treatments and ultimately a cure.

“We want this ground-breaking partnership to inspire and motivate other funders to join in the shared ambition of the SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge, paving the way for a better future for those living with type 1 diabetes and their families.”

Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, added: "We’re delighted to launch this prestigious partnership with the Steve Morgan Foundation and JDRF UK.

"This unparalleled investment will change the course of type 1 diabetes research forever, galvanising the diabetes research community and accelerating us towards a cure that will change millions of lives not only in the UK but worldwide.

"We’re incredibly grateful to Steve and Sally Morgan for their £50 million investment and their commitment to transforming the lives of people with type 1 diabetes.

"This is a call to arms for the scientific community, and we look forward to working with JDRF UK to unite the brightest minds in type 1 diabetes research to fuel new breakthroughs, together.”

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

As a result, the pancreas can no longer make insulin and blood sugar levels become dangerously high.

People with type 1 diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels and calculate the exact amount of insulin to take, several times a day.

Symptoms of type 1 include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Bed-wetting in children who previously didn’t wet the bed during the night
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Irritability and other mood changes
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision

What will the money do?

The Morgan’s and their chosen charities are looking to focus on the funding and investigation of treatments for the immune system, to replace insulin and novel insulins.

The SMF Type 1 Diabetes Grand Challenge will focus on three key research areas:

  • Treatments to stop the immune system’s destruction of insulin-producing beta cells: Striking at the root cause of the condition – the immune system attack – to prevent new cases of type 1 diabetes altogether and protect beta cells in those already diagnosed.
  • Treatments to replace or rescue insulin-producing beta cells: Replacing the insulin-producing beta cells that have been destroyed by the immune system to restore the function of the pancreas.
  • Novel insulins, for example those that respond to changing blood sugar levels: These insulins could eliminate dangerous blood sugar highs and lows, reducing the risk of devastating complications and removing the extreme psychological burden of managing type 1 diabetes.

It is hoped the research will improve the lives of up to 400,000 people in the UK, their families and carers, and the lives of those around the world living with or caring for someone with type 1 diabetes.