UChicago receives grants to train students for careers in diabetes research

Two new programs will offer students a full continuum of training, from basic science and translational research to interdisciplinary care for patients with diabetes.

The University of Chicago has received two new training grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to develop programs to train and inspire students in the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine to pursue careers in diabetes research. The programs will offer students a full continuum of training, from basic science and translational research to the type of interdisciplinary care needed to care for patients with diabetes.

Currently, more than 34 million adults in the United States (13% of Americans) have diabetes, and that number is expected to grow to 60 million (17%) by 2060. The goal of these programs is to support educational activities that complement the training of a physician scientist workforce to meet the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs for this growing segment of patients that are currently not available to graduate students and medical students.

The first program, called DULCE (Diabetes InqUiry through a Learning Collaborative Experience), will provide students with concrete experiences in diabetes research, clinical care, reflective observation through regular meetings with peers and physician scientists, learning of new theories through participation in multidisciplinary clinical and research seminars, and application of new concepts through an intensive mentored research project.

The DULCE program will be led by Arshiya Baig, MD, MPH, FACP, Associate Professor of Medicine, and Marshall Chin, MD, MPH, the Richard Parillo Family Distinguished Service Professor of Healthcare Ethics, plus more than 35 core faculty members who will serve as mentors to trainees. The R25 grant will provide $513,000 over five years from the NIDDK, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“This combination of diabetes scientific information and clinical exposure to understand the nature of diabetes and diabetes care will inspire students for diabetes research careers,” Baig said. “The strong clinical, translational, and basic science environment at the University of Chicago and the complementary programs already established at the Pritzker School of Medicine will prepare students who participate in the DULCE program for global leadership in diabetes research in an increasingly interdisciplinary health care delivery system.”

The second project, led by Matthew Brady, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, will train pre-doctoral researchers in metabolism at the systemic, cellular, and molecular level. The Molecular Metabolism Training Program (MMTP) builds on the foundation of the Committee on Molecular Metabolism & Nutrition (CMMN), of which Brady is the Chair, and is one of the few graduate programs in the United States granting a PhD in molecular metabolism.

MMTP trainees can take courses and gain experience in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, medicine, immunology, physiology and neurobiology with a required comprehensive specialized metabolism core curriculum, with the goal of setting them on a path to become independent academic diabetes research scientists and mentors themselves. The T32 grant will provide more than $807,000 over five years from the NIDDK.

“This new T32 for pre-doctoral trainees fits very well with both the R25 for medical students as well as our existing T32 for diabetes training of postdoctoral and Endocrine Fellows,” Brady said. “Along with the long-standing Diabetes Research and Training Center, the new programs augment established expertise for the comprehensive support of diabetes research training at UChicago.”

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