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News Release

Joslin Diabetes Center Receives $3 million from Eli Lilly and Company Foundation for Obesity Studies

Record award supports research into origins of obesity and insulin resistance

BOSTON – October 14, 2008 – Joslin Diabetes Center today announced it has received a three-year, $3 million grant from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation to help fund studies that will investigate the underlying causes of obesity and insulin resistance – two leading risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. The donation is one of the largest in Joslin’s history.

“Joslin is incredibly grateful that the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation has chosen to support this important research,” said Ranch C. Kimball, President and CEO of Joslin Diabetes Center.  “The generosity of philanthropic foundations is critical to Joslin’s mission and research efforts in the fight against the global diabetes pandemic which affects more than 200 million people worldwide.”

Diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome are major predisposing risk factors for many common disorders, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  The goal of the research will be to identify the genetic and hormonal triggers of these conditions to help design new approaches to treat and prevent them. 

“This grant will allow Joslin to approach obesity from a completely new direction,” said C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., Head of the Joslin Section on Obesity and Hormone Action, Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and lead investigator of the study.  “Instead of looking at how much a person eats and their amount of physical activity, we will be looking at the fat cell itself and studying how genes and hormones regulate obesity and diabetes.  Furthermore, we’ll be investigating how things progress starting from before birth and through adulthood.”

The multidimensional approach includes scientists from several Joslin research sections who will examine the origins of obesity and insulin resistance at the cellular level, including the role inflammation plays in these conditions, the influences of intrauterine and early nutrition, and new ways to image fat mass and function.

“Given Lilly’s strong diabetes heritage, we’re very pleased to have this opportunity to fund such innovative and valuable research,” said David E. Moller M.D., Vice President, Endocrine and Cardiovascular Research and Clinical Investigation, Lilly Research Laboratories. “We believe this important basic research program will help advance the field’s efforts to better understand the underlying causes of obesity and its relationship to diabetes.”

Tackling diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome are important and complex. Essential to the development of new treatments for these disorders is defining their underlying mechanisms and identifying new targets for therapy.  A few of the scientific questions the Joslin team hopes to answer are: how does fat develop; how to protect against the negative affects of fat; and how can the balance of good and bad fat be altered.

Other Joslin researchers participating in the study include Yu-Hua Tseng, Ph.D., Aaron Cypess, M.D., Ph.D., Steven Shoelson, M.D., Ph.D., and Mary Elizabeth Patti, Ph.D., and Gerald Kolodny, M.D. of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

For more information about the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, please visit http://www.lillyfoundation.org/.