UMMS Investigator Awarded 2000 Banting Medal for "Lifetime Achievement" in Diabetes Research

February 18, 2000

WORCESTER, Mass. - Michael Czech, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular biology and director of the Program in Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), has been named recipient of the 2000 Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The highest scientific accolade given by the ADA, the award honors individual long-term achievement in the study of diabetes.

Crediting the "many talented scientists" with whom he works, Dr. Czech said, "This honor just enhances our enthusiasm and prompts us to redouble our efforts to find answers regarding this major disease process that affects so many lives in this country."

Throughout his career, Czech has studied Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes) which afflicts approximately 15 million Americans. Specifically, Czech and his lab are investigating the events that emanate from the insulin hormone binding to the cell surface receptor, or the action that triggers the cellular events that regulate sugar entry into the cells. "Lately, we've been particularly successful in applying genomics to this problem," Czech said. "Gene discovery has bearing on the identification of novel proteins in the insulin signaling pathway."

Czech came to UMMS in 1981 as chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and served in this capacity until 1992. In 1989, he was named the first director of the Program in Molecular Medicine, a multi-departmental research endeavor made up of 18 laboratory groups that include faculty affiliations with seven basic science and clinical departments of the Medical School. Prior to joining UMMS, Czech was a professor of medical science at Brown University, where he earned his doctoral degree in biochemistry in 1972.

"To those of us here at UMMS who have watched Dr. Czech's career with pride and admiration, it is no surprise that he would be honored with one of the most prestigious awards in his field," said Aaron Lazare, MD, chancellor and dean of the Medical School. "Just as Frederick Banting blazed a trail for a new generation of scientists as one of the discoverers of insulin, Michael Czech has, through his research and his leadership, led his generation of scientists ever closer to a fundamental understanding of this terrible disease."

An integral member and associate director of UMMS Diabetes-Endocrinology Research Center, one of 15 across the country funded by the National Institutes of Health, Czech directs a lab group of approximately 20 scientists who attract about $1 million per year in extramural funding. He is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the ADA's Elliot P. Joslin Research Development Award, a NIH Research Career Development Award and the David Rumbough Scientific Award of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

"The recognition of Dr. Michael Czech with the prestigious Banting Medal by the ADA is a wonderful honor for Mike and the Medical School as well," said John L. Sullivan, MD, director of the Office for Research. "Dr. Czech is an outstanding scientist and leader. Faculty like Mike are the reason UMass Medical School continues to move closer to the becoming one of the very best research medical schools in the country," continued Sullivan, who is also professor of pediatrics, pathology, and molecular genetics & microbiology. Czech, who will accept the award and present a lecture at the ADA's annual Scientific Sessions in San Antonio, concluded, "I started investigating this disease about 25 years ago, and it's been an absolute joy to see all the insights that have been revealed. I'm particularly excited about the use of gene discovery technology that we are at the forefront in applying, to bring different components of the system into view. It's given us outstanding leads and, in the next couple of years, I hope we can exploit this technology further."

The Banting Medal was named in honor of Sir Frederick Grant Banting (1891-1941), a Canadian physician, physiologist and Nobel laureate who co-discovered insulin in 1922. The award is presented annually by the American Diabetes Association, the nation's leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information, and advocacy. Founded in 1940, the Association funds research, publishes scientific findings and provides information and services to people with diabetes, their families, health care professionals and the public.

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. UMass Medical School and its clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care, attracts more than $92 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. Research funding enables UMass researchers to explore human disease from the molecular level to large-scale clinical trials. Basic and clinical research leads to new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease.