UMMS RESEARCHER RECEIVES GAIL PATRICK INNOVATION AWARD  
Selective $100,000 grant from the American Diabetes Association supports creative research strategies 

January 17, 2007 

Worcester, MA-University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology Anthony Carruthers, PhD, has been awarded a Gail Patrick Innovation Award from The American Diabetes Association (ADA) Research Foundation. The prestigious grant, one of only two awarded this year, honors the memory of the late Gail Patrick, a former motion picture actress and producer and the first national chairman of the American Diabetes Association Board of Directors. Ms. Patrick also lived with diabetes. 

Dr. Carruthers, a renowned investigator who also serves as dean of the UMMS Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, specializes in the study of glucose transport across membranes. Essential for the metabolism of most cells, glucose is transported through biological membranes by specific proteins known as glucose transporters (GLUTs). The Carruthers lab is particularly interested in the structure of these proteins and in understanding how they are regulated throughout the body. 

With the support of the Patrick Award, Carruthers will continue to pursue a troubling problem related to the inhibition of GLUT4-a particular class of insulin-regulated glucose transporter found in adipose (fat) tissues and striated muscle-as a side effect of HIV protease inhibitor therapy. Although of great benefit to AIDS patients, HIV protease inhibitors have also been shown to lead to patients' development of insulin resistance and consequent type 2 diabetes. Prior research has demonstrated that protease inhibitor therapies that block the replication of HIV also inhibit the activity of GLUT4, severely reducing insulin-dependent cellular uptake of glucose. In his study, "Can we prevent HIV-protease inhibitor-induced insulin resistance by understanding GLUT4 inhibition?" Carruthers will employ a variety of structure and function studies to try to understand why the current class of HIV protease inhibitors block GLUT4 by identifying how and where they bind to the proteins. Ultimately, Carruthers hopes that such findings will allow researchers to isolate the binding area to develop inhibitors that continue to prevent HIV replication while allowing GLUT4 to function normally. 

"You cannot make progress in clinical research without the pursuit of purely basic research. The two are truly linked," said Carruthers. "This award is very affirming, in that it demonstrates that basic research can be applied to current clinical issues in medicine. I am so grateful for this tremendous support that will allow me to continue these important studies." 

The acknowledgment of Carruthers' ambitious investigation and creative approach to a problem that transcends the barriers of two distinct diseases is a fitting tribute to the woman for whom the award is named and to whom it owes its conception. The actress, who starred in films such as My Man Godfrey, Stage Door, and My Favorite Wife, alongside some of America's most beloved actors, also became one of the few female producers in the television industry, producing the Perry Mason television series, one of TV's most successful and longest running courtroom dramas. 

Patrick was very active in charitable and civic projects, serving as vice president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences from 1960 to 1962. From 1973 to 1974, she was the first national chairman of the ADA Board of Directors. As a tribute to Patrick and her generosity, the ADA established the Gail Patrick ADA Innovation Award in 2005. The prestigious award is presented to the highest scoring innovation application from two grant cycles each year in perpetuity and provides $50,000 per year for two years to the researcher for developing an idea that could have major impact on diabetes research and the Association's efforts to cure diabetes. 

The American Diabetes Association is the nation's premier voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy.  Founded in 1940, the Association has offices in every region of the country, providing services to hundreds of communities.  The Association's commitment to research is reflected through its scientific meetings; education and provider recognition programs; and its Research Foundation and Nationwide Research Program, which fund breakthrough studies looking into the cure, prevention, and treatment of diabetes and its complications.  For more information, please visit www.diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).  Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish. 

The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $174 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. For more information, visit www.umassmed.edu  

Contact: Kelly Bishop, 508-856-2000; ummsnews@umassmed.edu