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OU Harold Hamm Diabetes Center Awarded $10.8 Million Diabetes Research Grant


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CONTACT:  OU Public Affairs, (405) 325-1701
OKLAHOMA CITY – A $10.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will enable researchers at Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at the University of Oklahoma to examine the causes and complications of diabetes to lead to new methods of treatment, and in some cases, prevent complications of the disease altogether. 

“We can no longer ignore the impact of diabetes on our state and on the world,” said OU President David L. Boren.  “It is estimated that diabetes costs Oklahoma alone more than $3 billion each year, and the Centers for Disease Control predicts that 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime. This grant will help our researchers at Harold Hamm Diabetes Center to continue to lead the fight against these alarming statistics.”

The NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, or COBRE, provides promising young researchers with the resources to build a strong foundation for research aimed at treating and preventing diabetes.  The grant pairs these promising junior researchers with senior researchers as mentors to the development of their work, allowing new ideas and perspectives to be guided by the knowledge and expertise of the mentors.  The grant also provides for the continued development of core research laboratory facilities and resources that enhance the center’s ability to perform world-class diabetes research.

“I believe that many of the major breakthroughs that will lead to a cure for diabetes will come from the contributions of young, bright scientists in the field,” said Harold Hamm, Chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, Inc., who serves as chairman of the center’s board of advisors.  “By providing these additional resources, I want to encourage our young investigators to look more intensely at the development of new and novel ideas that will lead to a cure for diabetes and its complications.”

Hamm, who provided the lead naming gift for the center in 2007, has bolstered the impact the COBRE grant will have by providing a $3 million gift to further the diabetes research funded by the grant.   

“Harold Hamm’s gift to augment the COBRE grant creates a unique public and private partnership to address the diabetes health crisis,” said Boren.  “We are grateful for his continued leadership and tenacity in fighting the disease.”

This grant is a renewal of a $12 million grant awarded to the center in 2006, resulting in almost $23 million in total funding from this single grant program.

“The COBRE grant represents a remarkable return on investment,” said Blake Rambo, Chief Operating Officer at Harold Hamm Diabetes Center.  “All five of the junior investigators who had projects funded by the 2006 COBRE were able to successfully attract new, independent grant funding for diabetes research at the center.  Three junior investigators successfully obtained competitive R01 grant funding as a result of their studies under the COBRE, and two obtained grants from the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.” 

“The new COBRE funding will enable our researchers to focus on diabetes-related cardiovascular disease (Kenneth Humphries, PhD), vascular damage (Jian Xu, PhD), vision loss (Yun Le, PhD), and tissue damage (Franklin Hays, PhD),” said Jian-Xing Ma, PhD, Laureate Chair and Professor of Medicine, who serves as principal investigator of the COBRE grant.  “Our investigators made many significant advances with the first round of COBRE funding, and the award of this renewal funding will allow them to build on those successes to make a meaningful impact on diabetes research.”

“These investigators represent the best of what’s to come in diabetes research, and to have them right here at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center in Oklahoma, where they can have the greatest impact combating diabetes, is significant,” said Dr. Timothy Lyons, Chickasaw Nation Chair in Diabetes Research and Director of Research and Scientific Affairs at Harold Hamm Diabetes Center, who also serves as associate director and mentor on the COBRE grant.

A $10.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will fund the four researchers and studies: 

Franklin A. Hays, PhD  

Franklin Hays will study the various forms of tissue damage that results from diabetes to understand the cause of the damage.  His work will use structural biology technology to understand how protein structural changes induced by diabetes lead to diabetic complications.

Kenneth Humphries, PhD

Kenneth Humphries will study diabetes-related heart disease with the goal of developing new treatments for patients affected by the cardiovascular complications of diabetes.  His project seeks to understand how diabetes causes mitochondrial dysfunction and how this dysfunction leads to cardiovascular complications.

Yun Le, PhD

Yun Le’s research will focus on the prevention of vision loss in patients with diabetes.  He will use functional genomics technology to discover how diabetes damages photoreceptor cells and impairs the way patients sense light.

Jian Xu, PhD

Jian Xu will investigate new drug targets for the treatment of vascular damage caused by diabetes.  His work will focus on the cause of vascular endothelial impairment and dysfunction in diabetes to treat vascular damage.

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