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Diabetes center recognizes scientists for promising projects


The Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases (CDMD) at Indiana University School of Medicine has recognized six Indiana scientists for their innovative projects. Each is the recipient of the center’s Pilot & Feasibility Award, which provides seed funding to support their studies.

“The Pilot & Feasibility program has had a long and successful record of achievement in supporting the career development of diabetes investigators,” said program director Jeffrey Elmendorf, PhD. “As we continue, we look forward to working with current and future applicants to help foster the development of their new programs.

Since the center’s 2015 designation as an NIDDK Diabetes Research Center, the Pilot & Feasibility program has awarded $860,000 to 15 early-career scientists pursuing diabetes-related studies. Past awardees represent Indiana University, IUPUI, Purdue University, and the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute.

It’s a worthwhile investment, Elmendorf said. The award program helps launch high-risk projects in underexplored avenues related to diabetes and metabolic disease—an area of tremendous public health relevance. Since 2015, honorees have used their CDMD Pilot & Feasibility awards to secure an astounding $9.4 million in federal funding—and that’s not including pending outcomes for 2018-19 awardees.

This year, awardees represent IU School of Medicine and the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute. Their multidisciplinary projects span from understanding in utero diabetes development to the relationship between metabolic and skeletal health in people with diabetes:

Jonathan Flak, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Indiana BioSciences Research Institute Diabetes Center
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, IU School of Medicine
Project title: Identifying the downstream targets from the VMN in blood glucose control

Kok L. Kua, MD
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, IU School of Medicine
Project title: Reg3g as a drug-sensitive target mediating islet dysfunction in offspring of obese mothers

Hyun Cheol Roh, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, IU School of Medicine
Project title: Epigenetic mechanisms of adipocyte cellular identity control during obesity

Uma Sankar, PhD
Associate Professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Physiology, IU School of Medicine
Project title: Harnessing bone-mediated regulation of diabetes

Jason Spaeth, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, IU School of Medicine
Project title: Dynamic regulations of Pdx1 activity and beta cell function and identity through the Snd1 coregulator

Jungsu Kim, PhD
Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics, IU School of Medicine
Project title: Role of microRNA-7 in energy homeostasis


IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.