Biochemist Charles Brenner, Ph.D., has joined City of Hope to lead the nation’s first research department focused on the intersection between cancer and diabetes. He is also the inaugural holder of the Alfred E Mann Family Foundation Chair in Diabetes and Cancer Metabolism, an endowed chair made possible by a generous donation from the Alfred E Mann Family Foundation.
“Dr. Brenner possesses a scientific perspective that is not focused on one disease or cell type and instead stretches broadly across metabolic functions in both health and disease,” said Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., deputy director of the Diabetes & Research Metabolism Institute at City of Hope, which will house Brenner’s department.
“Dr. Brenner’s interdisciplinary research and vision will greatly benefit City of Hope as our diabetes and cancer physicians and scientists work together to understand how these diseases impact each other and to find better therapies for both diseases,” said Thurmond, who is also the Ruth B. & Robert K. Lanman Chair in Gene Regulation & Drug Discovery Research.
Brenner is one of the world's leading experts on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is the central catalyst of metabolic processes. Among his most significant discoveries, he identified nicotinamide riboside as an unanticipated vitamin precursor of NAD. He also developed a quantitative metabolomic technology that allowed him to discover that the NAD system is disturbed by many diseases and conditions of metabolic stress, including diabetes and cancer.
More recently, preclinical research by Brenner’s lab and colleagues found that the NAD system is disturbed by SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19, and that NAD precursors have the potential to protect against viral infection.
This innovative research, and City of Hope’s quest to find better therapies for cancer and diabetes, are what motivated the Alfred E Mann Family Foundation to establish a $5 million endowed chair to support Brenner’s work. The foundation and its trustees continue to conduct charitable work in the spirit of its founder and benefactor, Alfred E. Mann, a world-renowned American physicist, inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
”The Alfred E Mann Family Foundation is pleased that the inaugural Alfred E Mann Family Foundation Chair in Diabetes and Cancer Metabolism will be filled by such an esteemed investigator as Charles Brenner, Ph.D., who can build upon Al Mann’s legacy of creative innovation,” said Anoosheh Bostani, secretary of Alfred E Mann Family Foundation. “We are excited to see the launch of City of Hope’s program in this new area of inquiry and are confident in Dr. Brenner’s experience and vision to lead this program, which promises both to transform our understanding of the intersections of diabetes, metabolism and cancer and to deliver better options for patients who urgently need them.”
Brenner most recently served as the Roy J. Carver Chair and head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa for 11 years. He previously held faculty and leadership positions at Dartmouth College and Thomas Jefferson University. Brenner has received numerous awards for his research, most recently the 2020 Mary Swartz Rose Senior Investigator Award from the American Society of Nutrition. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors in biology from Wesleyan University and his doctorate degree in cancer biology from Stanford University.
Brenner views the new department as a nexus to bring together scientists and doctors to conduct collaborative research to develop new therapies that target metabolic disorders such as cancer, inflammation and infection. “City of Hope is the ideal place to do this work, thanks to its strengths in cancer and diabetes, and its interdisciplinary and collaborative spirit,” Brenner said.