Vol. 12 No. 4 - November, 2009

Czech honored with H.C. Jacobaeus Prize

Michael Czech, PhD

Michael P. Czech, PhD, professor and chair of molecular medicine and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, received the 2009 H.C. Jacobaeus Prize for his pioneering research into the underlying mechanisms of insulin resistance in type-2 diabetes. Awarded for outstanding research linked to diabetes, a disease that affects an estimated 24 million people in the United States, the prize was presented to Dr. Czech at a ceremony at Umea University, Sweden.

During his 35-year career, Czech has studied the mechanisms whereby inflammation and other processes impair insulin signaling on glucose transport and other cell functions associated with type-2 diabetes. Currently, Czech is exploring the use of RNA interference (RNAi) to suppress the genes in immune cells responsible for insulin resistance and inflammation associated with type-2 diabetes. The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Czech a five-year, $6 million National Institutes of Health Transformative Award (see sidebar) to pursue oral delivery of RNAi in models involved with type-2 diabetes.

UMMS researchers receive $6 million transformative award from the National Institutes of Health to pursue oral delivery of RNAi therapeutics

In support of investigators exploring bold ideas that have the potential to accelerate knowledge and speed the translation of research, the NIH has awarded UMMS researchers a five-year, $6 million Director's Transformative R01 (t-R01) Award to continue pursuit of a novel approach to the delivery of small pieces of genetic material in order to silence genes using RNAi. Investigators will attempt to quantify and control the delivery, distribution and efficacy of short pieces of RNA to suppress the genes in immune cells responsible for insulin resistance and inflammation associated with type-2 diabetes.

"RNAi-based therapies have the potential to transform the practice of medicine for numerous major human diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis," said Michael P. Czech, PhD, principle investigator of the study, who is chair and professor of molecular medicine and professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology. “This grant will allow us to potentially answer major questions about the delivery of short strands of double stranded RNA to specific target tissue that could have far-ranging implications for potential future therapies."

The NIH has granted a total of $30 million to 42 Director’s Transformative R01 (t-R01) Awards in the first year of the program’s existence. The t-R01s provide a new opportunity for scientists that is unmatched by any other NIH program. Since no budget cap is imposed and preliminary results are not required, scientists are free to propose new, bold ideas that may require significant resources to pursue. They are also given the flexibility to work in large, complex teams if the complexity of the research problem demands it.

More information on the Transformative R01 Award is at nihroadmap.nih.gov/T-R01. For descriptions of the 2009 recipients’ research plans, see nihroadmap.nih.gov/T-R01/Recipients09.

Czech joined UMMS in 1981 as chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and in 2001 was named the first chair of the Program of Molecular Medicine. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Diabetes Association's Elliot P. Joslin Research Development Award, an NIH Research Career Development Award and the David Rumbough Scientific Award of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. In 2000, Czech was named recipient of the Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The highest scientific accolade given by the ADA, the Banting award honors individual long-term achievement in the study of diabetes. In 2004, Czech also won the Albert Renold Award, presented by the ADA, for his outstanding achievements in the training of diabetes research scientists and the facilitation of diabetes research.

The H.C. Jacobaeus Prize has been awarded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation of Denmark, a commercial foundation established to support scientific and humanitarian purposes, since 1939. Hans Christian Jacobaeus performed the first clinical laparoscopic surgery in Stockholm in 1910 and was a member of the Nobel committee from 1925 until his death in 1937.