University receives $3 million for new diabetes research center

Washington University in St. Louis has received a five-year, $3 million grant to establish a new center to develop better ways to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes in high-risk patients, including American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The center’s funding comes from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Washington University was one of seven institutions awarded funding to establish this type of diabetes research center.

“The Center for Diabetes Translation Research is a unique opportunity to make sure cutting-edge science has an impact on real-world settings,” says Debra Haire-Joshu, PhD, professor of public health at the Brown School and the School of Medicine and director of the new center. “This grant will enable us to support research that addresses the root causes of diabetes and disparities.”


Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with high blood sugar — a hallmark of the disease — and many more are at risk of the disease because they are older, overweight or have a family history of the disease.

High blood sugar, if left untreated, can lead to complications such as eye, nerve, kidney and heart damage.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest diabetes prevalence rates of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. American Indians and Alaska Natives are twice as likely as white adults to suffer from type 2 diabetes.

The center has four cores. The health communication and health literacy core will evaluate the best ways to communicate information to improve diabetes prevention and care. A second core will focus on how to translate research discoveries into better treatments and prevention. Another core will improve design of diabetes studies, and the fourth core will support investigators working with American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

The research center will serve as a resource for investigators at Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the National Congress of American Indians.

“Our goal is to significantly improve the prevention and care of diabetes in populations at increased risk of this devastating disease,” Haire-Joshu says.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.