RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Four North Carolina universities have teamed up to win a $5.7 million federal grant for diabetes research.
The Wake Forest School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the Duke University School of Medicine and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University received the grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The grant establishes the North Carolina Diabetes Research Center, one of only 12 NIH Diabetes Research Centers in the United States. Diabetes Research Center grants are designed to enhance and extend the effectiveness of diabetes research by encouraging collaboration among investigators from relevant disciplines.
The grant builds on ongoing research activities at the four institutions supported by $64.5 million in funding.
“Diabetes has long been a major health issue in our state, especially among underserved minorities, but has taken on even greater importance now because people with diabetes are more likely to have serious outcomes when infected with COVID-19,” said Don McClain, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center on Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine, the lead institution on the grant. “We were given this award because of our proven track records in diabetes research at Duke, NC A&T, UNC and Wake Forest, and this award will give a major boost to those efforts.”
Other principal investigators for the grant include John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., at UNC, David D’Alessio M.D., at Duke, and Elimelda Ongeri Ph.D., at NC A&T.
Each of the four universities will be responsible for one core program. Wake Forest will be home to the Genomics/Proteomics Core, UNC the Advanced Clinical Studies Methods Core, Duke the Metabolomics Core, and N.C. A&T the Enrichment/Community Engagement Core.
UNC will leverage the resources of the North Carolina Translational Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute and over 200 scientists at UNC who are engaged in diabetes research.
“NC TraCS partner institution NC A&T will lead efforts to engage community stakeholders across the state and specifically the historically black colleges and universities,” said Buse, director of NC TraCS at UNC.
Diabetes and diabetes-associated health disparities are priority research areas at N.C. A&T.
African Americans are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes and diabetes-related disorders than their non-Hispanic Caucasian counterparts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent National Diabetes Statistics Report, the incidence of new cases of type 2 diabetes among African American adolescents in 2015 was nearly eight times higher than non-Hispanic Caucasians.
“The funding is going to allow us to bring a wide variety of resources to take on this horrible disease, including resources for N.C. A&T researchers and representatives from underserved populations,” said Ongeri. “We will be able to provide professional development and mentoring programs for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and junior faculty members.”
The Research Center intends to hold an annual Diabetes Research Symposium in Greensboro for investigators from all four campuses in the fall.
Diabetes is the third leading cause of death in the country. Complications include chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, retinopathy, which causes blindness, and nerve damage, which impairs wound healing leading to amputations.
The American Diabetes Association estimates 53,000 people in North Carolina are diagnosed with diabetes every year.
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