OKLAHOMA CITY — The highly coveted biennial OU Health Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes was awarded to Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, M.D., FRS, FMedSci, of the University of Cambridge for his outstanding research into the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
The Hamm Prize recognizes and encourages lasting advances in the field of diabetes research. It is awarded to an individual who has either demonstrated lifelong contributions to the field or realized a singular advance, especially one that promotes curative potential. The honor includes a $250,000 award — the largest of its kind in the world. It was established to recognize and promote lasting achievements in diabetes research focused on progress toward a cure.
“The Harold Hamm Prize is one of the most prestigious and distinguished awards a diabetes researcher can receive,” said O’Rahilly. “Its previous recipients are all giants in our field and it is a great honour to join their number. Research is clearly a team effort. I joyfully accept this prize on behalf of all the wonderful people with whom I have worked over nearly four decades in diabetes research, as we have strived to better understand the biology of this disorder and turn that knowledge into improved care for patients”
The Hamm Prize, which was established in 2012, is named for Harold Hamm, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc., who provided for an endowment to fund the Prize in perpetuity. The winner of the Hamm Prize is selected by a rotating Jury of national and international leaders in the diabetes community.
The 2023 Jury consisted of:
Steven E. Kahn, M.B., Ch.B.
Professor of Medicine, Leonard L. Wright and Marjorie C. Wright Chair, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition, Director, Diabetes Research Center University of Washington VA Puget Sound Health Care System
Jeffrey Pessin, Ph.D.
Judy R. & Alfred A. Rosenberg Professorial Chair in Diabetes Research, Director, Diabetes Research Center, Departments of Medicine and Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Maike Sander, M.D.
Scientific Director, Max Delbück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association, Berlin
Adjunct Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego
Clay F. Semenkovich, M.D.
Irene E. and Michael M. Karl Professor of Medicine, Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Lipid Research, Director, Diabetes Research Center, Washington University in St. Louis
Randy J. Seeley, Ph.D.
Henry King Ransom Professor of Surgery, Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, Director, Michigan Nutrition Obesity Research Center, University of Michigan
“The purpose of establishing this international research prize is to drive discovery of a cure for diabetes in this generation. It is to reward and fuel global scientific interest and innovation, while imagining a future free of the disease of diabetes,” Hamm said.
O’Rahilly was selected for his research that linked a specific mechanism to the development of obesity. Obesity is considered the biggest risk factor for Type 2 diabetes and O’Rahilly’s clinical research defined very specific molecular mechanisms and genes that are responsible for the condition of obesity.
“Obesity is caused by genetics in part, and O’Rahilly has discovered some of these key genes that lead to actually understanding why obesity happens,” said Jed Friedman, Ph.D., director of Harold Hamm Diabetes Center. “It’s not just a disease of gluttony anymore, it’s a disease of genetics. His contributions to the field of diabetes have been immense and we are really proud to have him as our prize winner.”
O’Rahilly leads one of the world’s largest institutes for metabolic research at the University of Cambridge, and his findings have been recognized internationally with many awards and prizes. In 2013, he was knighted for services to medical research, specifically, his work in diabetes research.
“The international scope of the Harold Hamm Prize underscores the importance of driving cutting-edge research toward the global fight against diabetes. OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center is at the forefront of this cause and this award complements OU’s commitment as a research-intensive university to pioneer discoveries that will lead to new treatment breakthroughs,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “We remain profoundly grateful to Mr. Hamm for his longstanding generosity and dedication to our shared hope that these efforts will bring an end to the chronic disease of diabetes.”
Each of the jurors, who are also leaders in the field of diabetes, agreed that the contributions that O’Rahilly has made to the field of diabetes have heavily impacted their understanding of diabetes treatment.
“With very rigorous clinical research, our prizewinner defined very specific molecular mechanisms and genes that are responsible for the condition of obesity,” said Semenkovich. “In essence, he has helped contribute to the movement that has defined obesity as a disease and has provided clear mechanisms for strategies to treat people with Type 2 diabetes and therefore more likely to decrease the suffering of people with Type 2 diabetes.”
Sander has been impacted by O’Rahilly’s work. She said, “As a diabetes researcher, I have followed his work and can speak to the impact that his research has had on obesity and understanding Type 2 diabetes. Where his work stands out is that he has taken a really close look at nature and has let nature teach us. He has looked at forms of obesity where it is a rare disease, and gone to the genetics and the genetics informs us about the mechanisms.”
OU Health Sciences Center Senior Vice President and Provost Gary Raskob, Ph.D., said, “Research is critical in our efforts to reduce the disease burden from diabetes. Professor Sir O’Rahilly’s research contributions are important advances in our progress to prevent Type 2 diabetes. His exceptional work gives hope to many affected by the disease and to a future with greatly reduced suffering caused by diabetes.”
The Hamm Prize is well known in the field of Type 2 diabetes research and highlights the effort in Oklahoma and the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center to have an impact on this disease.
OU HEALTH HAROLD HAMM DIABETES CENTER
OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center is committed to curing diabetes and ending the diabetes pandemic in the 21st century. It is among the world’s largest and most comprehensive institutions of its kind, integrating top-flight academic research with clinical care and disease prevention. The center oversees the world’s top research prize in the diabetes field. It has facilities in Oklahoma City and Tulsa as well as affiliated sites across the state, including partnerships with Native American communities. An innovative range of services includes support groups, cooking classes, lifestyle-intervention programs, and a summer camp for children and teens. For more information, visit hammdiabetescenter.org.
OU HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER
The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is one of the nation’s few academic health centers with all health professions colleges — Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, Graduate Studies and School of Community Medicine. The OU Health Sciences Center serves approximately 4,000 students in more than 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs on campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and is the academic and research partner of OU Health, the state’s only comprehensive academic healthcare system. The OU Health Sciences Center is ranked 108 out of over 2,900 institutions in funding received from the National Institutes of Health, according to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research. For more information, visit ouhsc.edu.
OU Health is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system of hospitals, clinics and centers of excellence. The flagship academic healthcare system is the clinical partner of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, one of the most comprehensive academic and research campuses in the country. With 10,000 employees and more than 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, OU Health is home to Oklahoma’s largest doctor network with a complete range of specialty care. OU Health serves Oklahoma and the region with the state’s only dedicated children’s hospital, the only National Cancer Institute-Designated OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center and Oklahoma’s flagship hospital, which serves as the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health was named one of the Top 50 Children’s Hospital for Pediatric Cardiology & Heart Surgery and Pediatric Gastroenterology & GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report in its most recent rankings. OU Health’s mission is to lead healthcare in patient care, education and research. To learn more, visit ouhealth.com.