DERC History

DERC History

History of the University of Virginia Diabetes Center and DERC

The University of Virginia (UVA) Diabetes Center was first established in 1974. From the time of its inception until 1990 Dr. Joseph Larner directed it. It was supported by a DERC grant from 1974 to 1991. It was the first NIH research center at the University's Health System and was a focal point for the development of a major component of the biomedical research at the University of Virginia.

To learn more about the Diabetes Center faculty, click Members or the navigation menu on the left.

In addition to fostering the research efforts of member investigators, the DERC stimulated the inception and growth of other centers focused on areas aligned with those targeted by the DERC. These include the Beirne-Carter Immunology Center (established 1991), the Cell Signaling Center that studies trafficking of signaling molecules between cytosolic and nuclear compartments (1988), a P-30 Center for Cellular and Molecular Studies in Reproduction (1992) and the Cardiovascular Research Center.  However, by 1990 many of the original DERC investigators had either left institution, or their focus of research had shifted to more basic aspects of cellular signaling, or other aspects of endocrinology. As a result the NIH (quite appropriately) did not renew funding for the UVA DERC in 1991.

New Growth Begins in 1991 with Recruitment of Additional Faculty

In response to the loss of DERC funding in 1991, the Diabetes Center began a building effort at the University of Virginia in the area of diabetes. These efforts have been well supported by the School of Medicine with regard to research space and support for recruitment of new faculty. For example, since 1994, the Diabetes Center, working with the School of Medicine and the departments of Medicine, Pharmacology, Pediatrics and Microbiology, Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry has been able to recruit 13 new investigators with a primary focus in diabetes research at a time when only 2 similarly oriented scientists have retired or left UVA. These new faculty include Drs. Marcia McDuffie from the University of Colorado, John Lawrence from Washington University, Susanna Keller from Dartmouth University, Lynn Hedrick from UCLA, Raghu Mirmira from University of California, San Francisco, Jerry Nadler from City of Hope Medical Center, and Drs. Meng Chen and Zandong Yang from the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Tony McCall from Oregon Health Sciences University.

More UVA Faculty Become Involved in Diabetes Related Research

In addition to outside recruitments, during that time several junior faculty who trained at the University of Virginia, and had an interest in diabetes have been retained as faculty. These include Drs. Susan Kirk, and Zhenqi Liu. Finally, as result of this growth, it has been possible to attract additional investigators from other disciplines within the University to work in diabetes related research. Prominent among these are Drs. Colleen McNamara, Ian Sarembock, and Jonathan Lindner. Each of these cardiologists has had an established research program for quite some time. However, as a result of collaborations with Drs. Nadler or Barrett they now work on aspects of vascular complications of diabetes. Drs. McNamara and Sarembock each lead one project on program projects, of which Dr. Nadler was the overall principal investigator. Dr. Lindner has a K08 award and is a co-investigator on an R01 grant with Dr. Barrett studying the regulation of the microvasculature by insulin. In addition, with collaboration from Dr. Kirk, Dr. James Tiedeman, who has long had a clinical interest in diabetes has developed an R01 support research program evaluating microvascular regulation by glucose in the retina. Finally, Dr. Boris Kovatchev was recruited to the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. As a bio-mathematician with a primary interest in diabetes and an independent R01 in studies of hypoglycemia, he not only brings his own research program to the Center but he brings more generalized expertise in mathematics that serves the Center as a whole through the Integrated Data Management Project.

Growth in the Faculty leads to new interactions

The growth of the University of Virginia Diabetes Center has been accompanied by significant expansion of the opportunities for interaction among investigators. These have been particularly fortunate in bringing together investigators work in the three major theme areas of the current DERC. For example, though relatively new to the University, Dr. Nadler is collaborating with Drs. McNamara and Sarembock as noted above in the area of vascular complications of diabetes. In the area of autoimmunity, as part of a Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International Center grant, Drs. McDuffie and Kirk have begun active collaborations on Type 1 DM examining approaches to prevent autoimmune diabetes in children and Drs. Lynch and Yang have begun a collaboration looking at the effects of a new class of potential immune suppressing agents on islet cell autoimmunity NOD mouse. In the areas of cell signaling Drs. Lawrence and Barrett have been collaborating in studies of the insulin regulation of protein synthesis via the mTOR pathway.