Internationally renowned City of Hope scientist Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D. named Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery

February 10, 2017
Chair honors pioneering diabetes researcher Rahbar, who worked at City of Hope more than 30 years
DUARTE, Calif.  — World-renowned diabetes researcher Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D., director of the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute of City of Hope and director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, has been named the Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery, which honors the life and legacy of the late renowned scientist.

Samuel Rahbar, M.D., Ph.D., who advanced City of Hope’s diabetes research for more than 30 years, dedicated his career to researching the disease’s causes and treatments, as well as those of cancer. He discovered that diabetes patients had elevated levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) – a seminal finding in 1969 that changed how the disease was diagnosed and treated; it was the first and still is the most effective clinical marker for diabetes. Rahbar’s discovery continues to improve the lives of millions of diabetic patients throughout the world.

“With this endowment, City of Hope honors two renowned researchers whose discoveries continue to impact the lives of millions of diabetes patients worldwide,” said Robert W. Stone, president and chief executive officer of City of Hope. “Dr. Rahbar’s research on glycated hemoglobin, as well as Dr. Riggs’ pioneering science that led to the development of synthetic human insulin, revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, and their work continues to save lives. City of Hope is extraordinarily proud to recognize Drs. Rahbar’s and Riggs’ contributions to science and their lifesaving research,” Stone said.

The American Diabetes Association recognized Rahbar with the prestigious and eponymous Samuel Rahbar Outstanding Discovery Award, one of the highest awards in the field to recognize exceptional leadership and outstanding contributions.

An Iranian immigrant, the son of Jewish and Iranian parents, Rahbar worked at City of Hope from 1979 until 2012 as a distinguished professor in diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism. He continued to work at City of Hope until he passed away at the age of 83.

“It’s an honor to be selected for an endowment named after a dear friend and mentor, who was also a pioneer in the field of diabetes and one of the world’s great scientists,” Riggs said. “Dr. Rahbar launched a new field of research when he discovered the glycation of hemoglobin in diabetes.

“I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than by doing what he loved most – conducting research that will improve the lives of diabetes patients worldwide,” Riggs said.

Riggs is best known for his role in the development of technology that led to the first synthetic human insulin for patients in 1979. That research led to the formation of Genentech and the biotechnology industry. Riggs then turned his attention to recombinant antibodies, setting the stage for their successful use in cancer treatment.

He is a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, which is the study of persistent changes in gene expression that do not involve changes in primary base sequence. In recent years, Riggs’ research has mainly focused on epigenetic mechanisms and DNA methylation.

Riggs is also responsible for institutional oversight of The Wanek Family Project to Cure Type 1 Diabetes.

Riggs received his bachelor’s degree from University of California at Riverside and his doctorate in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and in 2008, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the California Institute of Technology. He is also a recipient of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Research Award.

About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as one of only 47 comprehensive cancer centers, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the world. City of Hope is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics throughout Southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, diabetes and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs based on technology developed at the institution. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

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