Public Release: 

Penn reseachers given $12 million from NIH establish pancreas research program

New center poised to study diabetes and pancreatic islets 'with unprecedented resolution'

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

PHILADELPHIA - The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has awarded Penn Medicine a $12 Million, four-year grant to establish the Human Pancreas Analysis Program (HPAP).

"The past decades have seen a dramatic improvement in our ability to profile human tissues relevant to Type 1 diabetes at the genomic, epigenomic, protein, and functional levels," said Klaus H. Kaestner, PhD, the Thomas and Evelyn Suor Butterworth Professor in Genetics and associate director of the Penn Diabetes Research Center, in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

HPAP is focused on procuring and phenotyping pancreatic tissues from individuals with or at risk for Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, or other types of pancreatic islet dysfunction characterized by changes in beta cell mass. The team will also promote additional analysis of samples, including sharing of biobanked HPAP tissues and the resulting multi-dimensional data with the diabetes research community through an open-access database.

The Program, directed by Ali Naji, MD, PhD, a professor of Surgery, consists of six teams at Penn with expertise in:

  • Pancreas procurement and islet isolation, led by Naji
  • Physiological phenotyping of pancreatic islets, led by Doris Stoffers, MD, PhD, the Sylvan H. Eisman Professor of Medicine
  • Immunology and epigenetics, particularly involving T and B cells, led by Michael R. Betts, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology
  • Molecular profiling of islets, led by Kaestner
  • Tissue analytics and biobanking, led by Michael Feldman, MD, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Bioinformatics, led by Jason H. Moore, PhD, the Edward Rose Professor of Informatics and director of the Institute for Biomedical Informatics

The Program is also collaborating with teams at University of Florida, led by Mark A. Atkinson, PhD and Vanderbilt University, led by Alvin C. Powers, MD, who are funded by a separate award. HPAP, the newest program in the NIDDK-funded Human Islet Research Network, will build upon well-established collaborations among Penn investigators.

An unparalleled multidisciplinary approach, such as the mapping of the "immune atlas" of the pancreas and cutting-edge technology, such as single cell analysis by mass cytometry, are some of the program's strengths. This and other technological platforms will allow researchers to study diabetes and pancreatic islets with unprecedented resolution, say the investigators.


HPAP is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (UC4-DK112217).

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.

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