NIDDK Director's Update Fall 2021

Commendations & Commencements

Welcome

Photo of Dr. Yu-Chen Tsai

Dr. Yu-Chen Tsai joined NIDDK as a regulatory officer in the Office of Clinical Research Support. Before joining NIDDK, he was a regulatory specialist at a global clinical research organization.

Fond Farewell

Photo of Dr. William Knowler

Dr. William Knowler, chief of the Diabetes Epidemiology and Clinical Research Section, is retiring after 46 years in NIDDK’s Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch. Knowler has devoted decades of research into the behavioral, genetic, and environmental factors for type 2 diabetes and its complications, particularly among Southwestern American Indian populations. His research programs have included a 43-year longitudinal study that uncovered risk factors for type 2 diabetes and its complications, and several multi-center studies, including the groundbreaking Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and DPP Outcomes Study (DPPOS), which showed that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed, and the Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD) clinical trial. Read more about Knowler’s exceptional career in The NIH Record.

Congratulations

Photo of Dr. Carole Bewley

Dr. Carole Bewley, chief of the Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry, was named a Fellow of the American Society of Pharmacognosy for her high-level contributions in the field of natural products.

Photo of Dr. Marius Clore

Dr. Marius Clore, section chief in the Laboratory of Chemical Physics, was awarded the Khorana Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry in London for developing nuclear magnetic resonance-based methods to characterize protein assembly and aggregation and amyloidosis, a rare disease occurring when abnormal protein builds up in organs and interferes with their normal function.

Photo of Dr. Barbara Rehermann

Dr. Barbara Rehermann, section chief in the Liver Diseases Branch, was elected into the microbiology and immunology section of the Leopoldina. The Leopoldina is the oldest continuously existing academy of science in the world.

Editors' Note

Photo of Dr. Griffin Rodgers

NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin Rodgers was announced a 2021 honoree of the American Association of Kidney Patients National President’s Award. Rodgers was selected for his courage and leadership during the national COVID-19 pandemic and for his ongoing commitment to America’s long-term scientific research, discovery, and innovation endeavors designed to prevent and treat kidney disease and save human life.

Rodgers also received the Research Service Award from the American Gastroenterological Association, which recognizes individuals whose work has significantly advanced gastroenterological science and research. Dr. Rodgers is recognized for his contribution to the development of the first effective and FDA-approved therapy for sickle cell anemia.

In Memoriam

Photo of Dr. Paul Frenette

Dr. Paul Frenette, distinguished hematologist and NIDDK grantee, died on July 27. Frenette was an inspired leader and creative scientist who contributed greatly to his field by identifying mechanisms behind sickle cell-mediated blood vessel blockages and by discovering key roles of the nervous system in blood stem cell trafficking. Frenette taught medicine and cell biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he founded and directed the Ruth L. and David S. Gottesman Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research. Frenette was also an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He served on boards and scientific committees regarding stem cell research and hematology, on editorial boards of Blood and The Journal of Clinical Investigation, and on multiple NIH panels.

Photo of Dr. James Hofrichter

Dr. James Hofrichter, long-time senior investigator and section chief in NIDDK’s Laboratory of Chemical Physics, died on August 5. Hofrichter played a role in many scientific discoveries and contributed greatly to the fields of sickle cell research, hemoglobin physical chemistry, and protein folding. He was instrumental in converting the study of sickle hemoglobin polymerization from biochemical phenomenology to rigorous physical chemistry. He helped to develop a novel mechanism to explain sickle hemoglobin polymerization kinetics, a mechanism that is now used to explain the kinetics of fibril formation in Alzheimer’s disease.  Hofrichter constructed and applied a transient optical spectrometer to study protein–ligand binding and conformational kinetics with nanosecond time resolution, widely considered to this day as the most sensitive and accurate instrument of its type. His work on protein folding helped revolutionize kinetic studies. In addition to his many research contributions, Hofrichter gave generously of his time to mentor and provide assistance to students, postdocs, and senior investigators. Hofrichter retired from NIDDK in 2008 and continued as a consultant for the lab’s sickle cell drug-screening project.

Photo of Dr. Barbara Murphy

Dr. Barbara Murphy, world-renowned renal physician and NIDDK grantee, died on June 30. Murphy produced ground-breaking research on kidney transplant immunology, genetics and genomics in organ transplantation, and made discoveries that led to a new standard of care for kidney transplantation in people with HIV. In 2012, she became chair of the Samuel Bronfman Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, making her the first female chair of a department of medicine at an academic medical center in New York City. In addition to her healthcare roles, Murphy chaired scientific advisory boards seeking to improve chronic kidney disease detection, management, and treatment. Her legacy includes training outstanding biomedical researchers for successful careers in investigative nephrology.

Photo of Dr. Tachi Yamada
Credit: Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited

Dr. Tadataka “Tachi” Yamada, former NIDDK advisory council member and gastroenterologist, died on August 3. Yamada is remembered for an impressive 50-year-career as a physician-scientist and leader. Yamada earned his doctor of medicine from the New York University School of Medicine. After completing his internal medicine training at the Medical College of Virginia, he became an investigator in the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, trained in gastroenterology at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine and assumed his first faculty position there. He later moved to the University of Michigan, where he ultimately became chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine and physician-in-chief of the University of Michigan Medical Center. Yamada then moved to industry, where he was the chairman for research and development and a member of the board of directors for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Under his leadership, the number of compounds in GSK’s pipeline doubled. Yamada is known also for his work in global health, developing medicines and vaccines for diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria and was formerly the president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program, in addition to co-founding several biotech companies. Throughout his career, Yamada demonstrated highly impactful leadership in establishing precision and rigor in preclinical research as a necessary step towards translation to improving the treatment of diseases, and in translational research by establishing clear metrics and evaluation processes that would lead to the development of new therapeutics. He also strongly advocated for the view that pharmaceutical companies needed to establish an ethical foundation to serve all people, such as people with HIV/AIDS and people living in underdeveloped countries.

Photo Dr. James Heubi
Credit: Cincinnati Children’s

Dr. James Heubi, long-time NIDDK awardee died August 4. Heubi spent his career as a pediatric gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He played an active role in the NIDDK-funded Childhood Liver Disease Research Network (ChiLDReN). Heubi was instrumental in describing, characterizing, and identifying the genetic defects in bile acid synthesis disorders, one of the genetic causes of progressive neonatal cholestasis. In conjunction with Dr. Kenneth Setchell, they formulated and tested cholic acid therapy for bile acid synthesis disorders and achieved FDA approval in 2015 – the first FDA-approved treatment for any childhood cholestatic liver disease. The treatment has saved the lives of affected children and avoids the need for liver transplantation.

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