City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute has established a new department to
enhance the stature and visibility of City of Hope’s program in diabetes and related diseases.
The Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research comprises the divisions of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism and Gene Regulation & Drug Discovery.
By bringing existing diabetes and metabolism research under one umbrella, “the department will unite existing research resources and provide administrative structural support similar to other Beckman Research Institute departments,” said Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D., chair of the new department.
Riggs, director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute, also believes research funding from private donations and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is likely to increase in the coming years as the government, health-care foundations and concerned citizens rally to address diabetes’ considerable impact on society. “The public and politicians are becoming more aware of the diabetes epidemic,” he said.
About a third of Americans will develop some form of diabetes during their lifetime,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and its complications cost the nation more than $174 billion in 2007.
Richard Jove, Ph.D., Beckman Research Institute director, agrees with Riggs. “In the past 10 years, we’ve seen annual extramural support for the diabetes program expand nearly tenfold,” he said. “Much of this growth in funding comes from our scientists’ extraordinary grant-writing efforts, but I believe it speaks to the growing public concern about the disease, as well.”
City of Hope’s diabetes research and clinical programs began in the early 1970s with the arrival of the late Rachmiel Levine, M.D. Early in his career, Levine published seminal work in the field, which later led his colleagues to name him the “father of modern diabetes research.” Levine also was influential in supporting later efforts by Riggs and Keiichi Itakura, Ph.D., to synthesize human insulin, work that dramatically improved diabetes treatment worldwide.
The program now includes a nationally recognized islet cell transplant program, which Fouad R. Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., established in 2001 and continues to lead. “The work we are doing is nothing less than groundbreaking,” he said. “We have some of the most accomplished scientists in the field of diabetes research today, and we continue to set the standard for these programs. The formation of this new department is a great step forward for us and for City of Hope.”
In recent years, the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism has undergone tremendous growth in research scope, faculty and grant funding. Primary areas of research focus include islet transplantation, islet biology, stem cell biology, islet cell immunology and diabetes complications. The department also leads other major research initiatives aimed at developing an artificial pancreas for the treatment of diabetes and improving the understanding of diabetes epigenetics.
Kandeel, who serves as director of the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology &
Metabolism, noted that the clinical component of the department will remain within the medical center. City of Hope has gained national recognition as an NIH-sponsored Islet Cell Resource Center and as a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)-designated Islet Cell Transplantation Center. The department has also received significant funding from the JDRF to support its efforts in islet cell manufacturing and distribution, as well as a new clinical protocol evaluating the use of growth factor stimulation to expand islet cells in patients after transplant.
According to Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer, the dual structure of Kandeel’s department will work to the institution’s advantage. “It allows us an unprecedented opportunity to facilitate our translational research efforts and efficiently bridge our laboratory investigations with our clinical studies,” he said.
The new department solidifies the relationship between City of Hope’s diabetes and metabolic research programs and its focus on cancer research. Growing evidence suggests diabetes and obesity are linked to increased cancer risk. Barry M. Forman, M.D., Ph.D., the Ruth B. and Robert K. Lanman Chair in Gene Regulation and Drug Discovery Research, has explored this connection for several years.
“The formation of this new division provides an opportunity to enhance our research into this area and perhaps see new connections between metabolic disease and cancer,” Forman said.
Friedman believes the formation of the new division is an important step in City of Hope’s story. “The diabetes pandemic continues to worsen, costing millions of lives worldwide and untold resources each year,” he said. “As City of Hope has done in the past, responding to the tuberculosis threat early in the 20th century and later to that of cancer, we now strengthen our humanitarian mission of finding cures for life-threatening illnesses by establishing this new division.”
Supported through a $20 million gift from the Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Foundation, detailed planning is under way to expand diabetes, metabolic disease and stem cell research through an addition to the Leslie & Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Diabetes & Genetic Research Center. Construction will be completed in October 2010.