NIDDK Director's Update Winter 2019

Director's Note

Dr. Rodgers speaking at podium
NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers giving the keynote address at the 2019 Johns Hopkins Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture. Credit: Joshua Franzos, Johns Hopkins ICTR

More than 50 years ago, NIDDK funded research on insulin pumps that could hopefully one day measure and deliver insulin for people with type 1 diabetes. A successful pump was developed and was about the size of a large backpack. Now these devices are about the size of your palm and are being designed to operate wirelessly with a continuous glucose monitor using a computer algorithm  a device called the artificial pancreas.

For people with type 1 diabetes who require insulin 24/7 and need daily insulin injections, these new devices are revolutionizing the way we deliver medical care. Thus, medical advancements that once seemed impossible are becoming reality and have a significant impact on public health.

Long-term vision, creativity, and sustained dedication are necessary to advance a research mission. As we see with the insulin pump and developing the artificial pancreas system (highlighted in this issue’s Research Updates), discovery leading to a new treatment or cure often emerges from incremental insights gained over many years and across multiple disciplines.

In this issue, you can read about some of our steadfast employees who help make the long-term progress happen. Many NIDDK staff have worked here for decades and were honored for their contributions at this year’s NIDDK employee appreciation awards and beyond. And you’ll find out what NIDDK has to do with one of this year’s Nobel Prize winners. We also feature a story of exploratory research from within Dr. Kenneth A. Jacobson’s NIDDK lab, which led to the discovery of a new drug that has so far proven to treat people with advanced stages of liver cancer in early-stage trials.

Basic and exploratory research aims to discover fundamental biological mechanisms in the laboratory without a specific application in mind and is an essential part of what NIDDK supports. In a recent analysis of the 210 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration from 2010 to 2016, researchers found that NIH contributed to research for every single one, and 90% of the research was considered basic research. Basic research findings alone may not have an immediate and obvious application, but in combination with others, they can lead to significant advancements.

NIDDK is also dedicated to sharing these advancements and other reputable health information with the American taxpayers who funded it. The health information on our website and messages we share on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere often derive from decades of high-impact, high-quality research. To that end, this November, NIDDK partnered with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to raise awareness of the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Learn more about our National Diabetes Month activities in this issue.

We never know where the next discovery will lead us, and so NIDDK will persistently couple a long-term vision with basic and innovative research to put what seems impossible within our reach.

In good health,

Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Follow NIDDK on Twitter @NIDDKgov

Last Reviewed November 2019
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