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Mission and Goals of the Yale Diabetes Research Center

The overall mission of the Yale Diabetes Research Center (DRC) is to promote novel and cutting edge research in diabetes and related metabolic disorders by facilitating the interactions of basic and translational scientists, to develop interdisciplinary, interdepartmental scientific initiatives in diabetes and metabolic disorders.

The goals of the DRC are to:

  • · stimulate multidisciplinary interactions, particularly between basic and clinical scientists;
  • · efficiently organize time consuming and/or costly techniques through Core facilities to enhance the productivity of investigators conducting research in diabetes related areas
  • · encourage the formation of new collaborations and to entice investigators, who bring new disciplines into the field of diabetes and metabolism
  • · promote new research programs through pilot feasibility projects;
  • · promote the training and development of young clinicians and scientists engaged in diabetes related research
  • · create an institutional environment that amplifies and expands research efforts in diabetes or related metabolic and endocrine disorders.

Historical Overview

The DRC at Yale University first received funding from NIDDK in 1993. The original Core resources, Pilot and Feasibility (P&F) Program, administrative structure and Enrichment Program, have remained intact since the founding. As technologies have evolved, some of the original Cores have been consolidated and expanded, and restructured to meet the needs of the DRC investigators. Since the inception, the Cores have utilized a “payback” charge to support their services, and thereby ensuring that the need for the services is supported. This arrangement also enabled the DRC to continue to incorporate novel technologies such as imaging for which there was a great need. A major effort was made to increase the visibility of the DRC within the University through a "high profile" Enrichment Program (in part supported by private and University funds), including DRC sponsored diabetes symposia, an annual retreat and visiting lectureships in diabetes-related research, including some in basic science departments to stimulate their interest in diabetes. The Executive Committee decided from the outset to invest much its resources in the P&F Program, believing it was the most productive way of making a rapid impact on diabetes research locally. Overall, the P&F program more than fulfilled this mission. In most cases P&F applications were the stepping-stone for peer-reviewed grant support and were judged by extramural reviewers Excellent or Outstanding, reflecting the high quality of the research proposed. The training environment at Yale is outstanding and was enhanced in 2001 by the creation of the Investigative Medicine Program, a unique PhD program exclusively for physicians in clinical departments. Two of the first 4 doctoral candidates enrolled worked with DRC members on diabetes projects and both remain in diabetes research.

DRC Structure

In 2018 Robert Sherwin, MD, the founding director and original PI of the DRC retired, and the leadership was assumed by Gerald I. Shulman, MD, PhD and Kevan Herold, MD as co-Program Directors. They are advised by an Executive Committee composed of faculty from basic and clinical departments in the School of Medicine. An External Advisory Board oversees the performance of the DRC and provides counsel to the Program Directors as well as Dean Nancy Brown, MD. The DRC consists of an Administrative Core and six Scientific Cores (Clinical Metabolism, Molecular, Transgenic Mice, Physiology, Cell Biology, and Diabetes Translation). The Administrative Core's functions include: program management; promotion of research in diabetes; and provision of support for the P&F and Enrichment programs. Dr. Herold directs the P&F program. The Clinical Metabolism Core (directed by Dr. Shulman) offers access to state-of-the-art metabolic substrate analyses. The Molecular Genetics Core consists of two sub-cores: Molecular (directed by Dr. Philbrick) offers expertise for the generation of constructs to create transgenic and knockout mice and training in molecular techniques. The Gene Targeting sub-core (directed by Dr. Flavell) has unique resources to create novel transgenic and knockout mice models. The Physiology Core (directed by Dr. Herzog) assists in measurements of rodent in vivo metabolism and hormone secretion. The Cell Biology Core (directed by Dr. Bogan) offers a state-of-the-art imaging facility and expertise in in vivo cell imaging, confocal microscopy, and electron microscopy. A long standing strength of the Center are human metabolic studies. The Clinical Translational Core (directed by Dr. Tamborlane) provides an infrastructure to facilitate patient-based diabetes research.

The guiding principle in the design of the DRC has been to avoid duplicating existing Core resources available to faculty, such as protein sequencing, oligonucleotide, DNA analysis, microarray, flow cytometry, tissue retrieval cores, as well as the CTSA supported analytical laboratory for hormone and cytokine analyses in humans. DRC members are generally charged a service fee for most core services amounting to the total supply costs, and in some cases for personnel costs. To maximize our ability to provide a wide range of services to DRC members we have expanded existing limited-access laboratory facilities as much as possible. This allows us to minimize costs by taking advantage of existing personnel and equipment. For example, we have utilized the existing Cellular Imaging Core supported by the University in the design of the Cell Biology Core. The Clinical Metabolism and Physiology Cores benefit from the instrumentation provided by the Yale NMR Center, the Mouse Metabolic Phenotyping Center (which provides resources for mice studies only) and the YCCI Analytical Core Laboratory. The Molecular sub-core takes advantage of the extensive resources of the Keck Center and the Gene Targeting sub-core expands the fully operational facility supervised by Dr. Flavell. Finally, the Translational Core works closely with the resources for clinical investigations that are provided by a NCATS CTSA to establish the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI) directed by Drs. Brian Smith and John Krystal.