Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) June 11, 2010
A group of pioneering scientists who have made outstanding contributions to diabetes research were recognized today by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation with two prestigious awards, the Gerold & Kayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award and the David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence. The awards were presented during JDRF’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
The award recipients for the Gerold & Kayla Basic Research Scientist Award are Dr. Markus Stoffel, Professor of Metabolic Diseases at the Institute of Molecular Systems Biology at ETH Zurich, and Dr. Yuval Dor, a scientist at Hebrew University Medical School in Jerusalem. The award is presented annually to a scientist or a team of scientists to recognize their leadership and innovation in type 1 diabetes research.
The award recipients for the David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence are Dr. Gerald Nepom, director of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason and the JDRF-BRI Center for Translational Research in Seattle, Washington; Dr. Stephen Rich, a genetic epidemiologist and director of University of Virginia Center for Public Health Genomics; Dr. Anne Marie Schmidt, Chief of the Division of Surgical Science and the Gerald and Janet Carrus Professor of Surgical Science at Columbia University; and Dr. Douglas Melton of Harvard University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Established almost 40 years ago by actress Dina Merrill in honor of her late son, David, the Rumbough Award is presented annually in recognition of outstanding achievement in juvenile diabetes research and service to JDRF.
“The scientists who received these awards today represent the best and the brightest, and are the embodiment of the hope and commitment each and everyone of us has that treatments will soon be a reality, and that a cure for diabetes is inevitable,” said Dr. Richard Insel, Executive Vice President of Research at JDRF.
Dr. Stoffel’s research has focused on the molecular mechanisms that regulate glucose and lipid homeostasis, insulin secretion, and insulin signaling; he also investigates the control of gene regulatory networks through transcription factors and small molecules. Among his major scientific contributions are the identification of growth-promoting genes and networks in pancreatic beta-cells, and the discovery and characterization of microRNAs in the control of pancreatic beta cell growth and metabolism.
Dr. Dor and his team stunned the diabetes research field when they discovered that the main source of new beta cells is the duplication of existing beta cells, rather than adult stem cells. Using a novel genetic-lineage tracing method, this discovery highlighted the importance of beta cells as a potential source of new beta cells, challenging the idea that adult pancreatic stem cells give rise to new beta cells.
Founding BRI’s immunology and diabetes research programs, Dr. Nepom’s leadership has made BRI the foremost type 1 diabetes translational research and clinical trials center in the Pacific Northwest. His contributions to the diabetes research field also include the identification and characterization of immune system genes associated with type 1 diabetes and the use to “tetramer” biomarker technology.
Dr. Rich’s long-term interests in the genetic basis of type 1 diabetes led establishing the Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium at Wake Forest University, with support from JDRF and the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. That effort led to the identification of over 40 regions in the human genome that contain genes affecting type 1 diabetes risk.
Dr. Schmidt’s basic and translational research has focused on the contribution of a molecule called “RAGE” to heart disease-related vascular injury, particularly in type 1 diabetes and its complications. RAGE is a cell-surface receptor that exacerbates inflammation and causes cellular damage when activated. As a member of the team that discovered RAGE, her work defined the receptor’s multi-ligand nature, establishing the molecule’s fundamental role in diabetes and the inflammatory response. It has also led to the testing of therapeutics with the potential to address complications of diabetes.
Dr. Melton has become one of the leading figures in type 1 diabetes research. A leading researcher and advocate for human embryonic stem cell research, Dr. Melton’s laboratory at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute investigates the genes and cells that make pancreatic tissue during normal development, with the goal of generating human pancreatic cells for transplantation into people with diabetes. He has also been named twice to Time magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International is a leader in setting the agenda for diabetes research worldwide, and is the largest charitable funder and advocate of type 1 diabetes research. The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes mellitus and its complications through the support of research. Type 1 diabetes is a disease which strikes children and adults suddenly and requires multiple injections of insulin daily or a continuous infusion of insulin through a pump. Insulin, however, is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating complications which may include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation.
Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1.4 billion to diabetes research, including more than $100 million in FY2009.