Oil boss leads crusade to find cure for diabetes

Peter Jones, new chairman of JDRF Scottish Development Group, who wants Scotland to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, after he was diagnosed with the disease
Peter Jones, new chairman of JDRF Scottish Development Group, who wants Scotland to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, after he was diagnosed with the disease
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Peter Jones said having the disease changed “what I am grateful for”.

He leads one of the world’s biggest oil exploration companies in the UK but Peter Jones has taken on a new workload very close to his heart - the fight to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Mr Jones is the managing director of Taqa UK and is in charge of more than 550 employees during one of the industry’s most difficult spells.

However, he is also dealing with a very personal challenge after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 37.

It turned life on its head for the successful businessman, who recently took up the chairmanship of JDRF Scottish Development Group, which funds research into finding a cure for the devastating - and often misunderstood - condition.

Mr Jones, now 43, said: “I think like a lot of people who have a Type 1 diagnosis, it was a change point in my life. You prioritise things. I am aware that my life could be 10 to 15 years shorter. That was certainly part of the emotional acceptance that I went through.

”When I was diagnosed I just had my third child, I thought ‘what will I see?’ and ‘what condition will I be in when I am older’? It definitely impacted on my perspective of life and what I am grateful for.”

Mr Jones said he wanted Scotland to lead the way in finding the cure, given the high rates of the disease plus the country’s strong research and development culture, particularly in life sciences.

There are around 30,000 people in Scotland with Type 1 diabetes, which leads the immune system to attack the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

It is not related to lifestyle factors like Type 2 diabetes and is often diagnosed in children.

Mr Jones described a “tightrope” he navigates every day in order to stay well and that the condition was a concern “every minute of every day.”

He said: “When you are diagnosed it is overwhelming, it felt quite oppressive and it was a shock to the system.

“It is a lot to get your head round, it is a lifelong and life-limiting condition. It is there all the time and every minute of every day its is part of you and you are thinking about it.

“You do feel like you are walking a tightrope between low blood sugar - which can lead to diabetic coma in the most extreme example - to high blood sugar, which can damage all the fine blood vessel that can impact on your eyesight, circulation and, in the extreme, lead to organ failure.”

Mr Jones said he had become used to the warning signs that indicate his blood sugar was fluctuating and spoke of the difficult regime of keeping the balance, with just half-a-slice of bread enough to make a difference.

However, he said he had reached a point where he felt the disease was under control and that his condition - and the management of it - was always put into context by children who had Type 1 and the work their parents had to do to keep them healthy

JDRF currently has two ongoing research projects in Scotland - one in Dundee and one in Glasgow - which were given £3.9m by the organisation.

Mr Jones said Scotland was in a “unique position” to find the cure for Type 1 diabetes, not least because the co-discoverer of insulin - - was from Aberdeen.

He added: “There are tremendous skills in this country in terms of research. Life sciences really punches above is weight and I think in terms of fundraising, we are a generous country.

“We also have a high incidence of Type 1 diabetes, and that includes in young children.

“We have all the ingredients to make a difference and put Scotland on the map when it comes to finding a cure for this disease. The goal has to be the cure.”