Novo Nordisk is to establish an R&D centre in Seattle for type 1 diabetes, a disease the Danish company says has been somewhat neglected.

The firm says the "unique concept" behind the new centre is to "pursue a translational research approach characterised by combining basic research and early proof-of-concept trials under one umbrella". Novo claims that it will provide "the necessary scientific foundation to move early-stage discovery projects rapidly from animal models into small clinical exploratory trials in type 1 diabetes".

The centre is expected to open this summer and will be staffed by 20 researchers. It will be located on the same premises as Novo's inflammation research centre in Seattle "in order to foster natural research synergies between the two sites".

The company claims that type 2 diabetes has been the main focus among  researchers and pharmaceutical companies "because of the dramatic rise in the number of people living with the disease". As for type 1, "a different disease that requires life-saving treatment with insulin…there has been a lack of major scientific progress in this area in recent years".

Matthias von Herrath, head of the new centre and currently the director of the type 1 diabetes research group at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, said "my dream has always been to see some of the treatments that my and other research teams have tested in animal models translated into better treatments for type 1 diabetes". He added that "I hope to pursue this dream, while also forging new public–private collaborations within this field."

It is estimated that 366 million people were living with diabetes in 2011 and type 1 diabetes accounts for 5%–10% of that total.