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Scripps Florida Scientist Awarded $4.2 Million for Type 1 Diabetes Research

October 19, 2011

Picture handmade flies used by fishermen that lure and hook fish. That's one way to describe Thomas Kodadek's creative research into Type I diabetes, for which he and his team were awarded $4.2 million from the National Institutes of Health.


Kodadek, a professor in the Department of Chemistry on the Jupiter campus at The Scripps Research Institute, studies this autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which leads to insulin deficiency.

The  approach Kodadek uses in his research involves peptoids, synthetic molecules similar to peptides that make up proteins when joined together. His lab uses these peptoids like the fisherman's fly, to screen or search for molecules that bind to and affect the action of a type of immune system molecule called an antibody and pulls them from blood samples.

It’s a novel way to short-circuit the discovery process that has been used successfully in the lab for Alzheimer’s disease. In the new project, once novel autoimmune cells for diabetes have been identified, Kodadek said, the scientists will begin to determine whether they can be turned off selectively, proof-of-principle for what could be a powerful therapeutic strategy.

The new grant will fund research to determine early autoimmune reactions that drive the development of Type I diabetes, as well as to look for ways to selectively block such autoimmune diseases without shutting down or damaging the entire immune response.

The research funded by the new grant may also lead to new ways to detect Type 1 diabetes. Currently, immunoassays, a technique that detects auto-antibodies for human insulin, are used as early diagnostic markers for Type I diabetes, and for screening and risk assessment in clinical trials. Because progression of diabetes is often haphazard, additional markers are needed to improve overall risk assessment.

Kodadek is the principle investigator on the study. The award will be shared with researchers at the University of Miami and Opko, a Florida-based biotechnology company.

The new four-year grant from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) is a special Type I Diabetes Impact Award (DP3).


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