NIDDK Director's Update Winter 2010

News Around NIDDK

NIDDK’s 60th Anniversary

Four men, all in ties and dark suits, stand close and face the camera, smiling.
Photo Credit: Ernie Branson/NIH Medical Arts
Three former NIDDK directors join current Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers (second from left) at the Institute’s 60th anniversary symposium, “Unlocking the Secrets of Science: Building the Foundation for Future Advances,” held Sept. 21 at the NIH Natcher Conference Center in Bethesda. At left, former directors Dr. Lester B. Salans, now a professor at Mount Sinai Medical School and director of Forest Laboratories; second from right, Dr. Phillip Gorden, now an NIDDK intramural researcher and; at right, Dr. Allen M. Spiegel, dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

As the dozen-plus events surrounding the anniversary wind to a close, reflect on the science and the memories through materials like NIDDK: 60 Years of Advancing Research to Improve Health, which includes decades of intramural and extramural advances (Strategic Plans and Reports).

For more on the 60th anniversary and related events, to watch an anniversary video or get a slide or label for a research presentation or poster, go to Strategic Plans and Reports.

Senate Staff Visit NIDDK

A woman on the left talks with a teenage boy. Both sit at a table in a conference
Dr. Kristina Rother, a senior clinical investigator in NIDDK’s intramural Clinical Endocrine Section, and Scott Schmidt, who participated in one of her clinical trials, talk about what it’s like for youth who live with type 1 diabetes and areas where research advances are necessary while at a meeting with staff from NIDDK and from the U.S. Senate on Oct. 12 on the NIH campus in Bethesda.

On Oct. 12, at the request of the Senate Finance Committee, four Senate staffers visited the NIH in Bethesda for a briefing on scientific advances and opportunities in type 1 diabetes research. The briefing focused on work supported nationwide by the Special Statutory Funding Program for Type 1 Diabetes Research (Special Diabetes Program), a program administered by NIDDK.

NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers began the program by giving an overview of diabetes research at the NIH and discussing how the Special Diabetes Program has enabled investment in research that has benefited people with type 1 diabetes as well as those with other diseases. “This NIH-wide partnership, which also extends outside of NIH to the CDC, has turned out to be an effective and productive approach to solving problems in diabetes by enabling us to develop and carry out novel and creative basic and clinical research programs,” he said.

Dr. Judith Fradkin, director of NIDDK’s Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases, provided examples of type 1 diabetes research supported by the Special Diabetes Program, as well as future opportunities that have stemmed from the research.

The staffers also heard from several scientists conducting type 1 diabetes research with support from the Special Diabetes Program. Dr. Bruce Buckingham, professor of pediatrics and an investigator for the Diabetes Research in Children Network and Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, discussed a collaborative multi-center clinical trial evaluating continuous glucose sensors in children.

Dr. Kevan Herold, professor of immunology and medicine and director of the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Center at Yale University School of Medicine, discussed his research on immune modulation to prevent and reverse type 1 diabetes. Dr. Neil Bressler, professor of ophthalmology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chair of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (, discussed positive results from a recent network clinical trial testing a new therapy for diabetic eye disease.

Beyond the talks, the staffers toured the lab of Dr. Kristin Tarbell, chief of the NIDDK’s intramural Immune Tolerance Section in the Diabetes Branch, and learned about her research using dendritic cells to develop immune therapies for type 1 diabetes.

They also heard from Dr. Kristina Rother, a senior clinical investigator in NIDDK’s intramural Clinical Endocrine Section, and from one of her patients, 17-year-old Scott Schmidt, who has had type 1 diabetes since age 7.

At the Clinical Research Center, Scott had been involved in a trial investigating oral recombinant interferon alpha to prolong the “honeymoon period” for people who recently developed type 1 diabetes mellitus, a phase in which the insulin need becomes minimal and glycemic control improves, but only as long as this period lasts. Results of this study showed some positive effect of interferon alpha on insulin secretion, but the ultimate goal of achieving insulin independence is still far away.

Scott told the attendees how difficult it had been to manage the highs and lows of his blood glucose. His mother, Marisa Schmidt, told of the difficulties of finding consistent means to regulate that glucose.

Rother told Scott and the audience that the hope, with research, is for him and others to have an easier time in the future, for the “peaks and valleys” of glucose levels—as Scott called them—to be better regulated and easier to manage.

Alan Schmidt hopes his son’s participation in NIH research, and his presence at the table speaking to the congressional staff, help others with type 1 diabetes. “Things like this, it gives us hope,” he said. “It really does.”

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