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City of Hope Distinguished Scientist Debbie Thurmond Named New Director of Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute

Renowned diabetes researcher Arthur Riggs will continue to conduct research at the institute

Leading diabetes scientist Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., has been named the new director of City of Hope’s Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute, which continues diabetes research at City of Hope that was started more than 70 years ago. Arthur Riggs, Ph.D., who developed the technology in 1978 that resulted in the first synthetic human insulin, impacting millions of lives worldwide, will continue to conduct research within the institute.

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Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute (Photo: City of Hope)

“Debbie’s depth of experience as a highly successful diabetes scientist and leader, as well as her vision for the DMRI, will lead us to continue to be one of the premier diabetes institutes in the nation,” said Riggs, Samuel Rahbar Chair in Diabetes & Drug Discovery and director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope. “A rising star in the diabetes field, Debbie will continue to be an excellent mentor to younger, independent scientists who, along with our senior scientists, are working on innovative diabetes research.”

Thurmond joined City of Hope in 2015 as professor and founding chair of the Department of Molecular & Cellular Endocrinology within the Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute. She became deputy director of the institute last year.

“I am absolutely delighted and humbled to be named director of City of Hope’s DMRI,” said Thurmond, Ruth B. & Robert K. Lanman Chair in Gene Regulation & Drug Discovery Research. “Art has built a phenomenal institute, and I have the great pleasure of facilitating its continued growth and prominence in the diabetes space.”

In addition to leading the institute’s support of ongoing diabetes research, Thurmond will support its focus on the intersection of diabetes and cancer, helping to answer the reasons why diabetes is significantly associated with an increase in cancer. As such, the institute recently established a new department – the Department of Diabetes & Cancer Metabolism. The institute also provides endocrinology care to cancer patients, since type 2 diabetes significantly increases the risk of cancer. In addition, a growing number of highly effective cancer therapies can also cause insulin-dependent diabetes.

“With the power of City of Hope’s comprehensive cancer center alongside us, we are the only diabetes institute uniquely designed to focus on how to cure both diseases and to develop treatments to help prevent them,” Thurmond added.

The Diabetes & Metabolism Research Institute’s research in other initiatives includes cellular therapies to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes; discovering new biomarkers to identify those at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and its complications; developing drugs that precisely target the receptor molecules responsible for diabetes; improving islet cell transplantation; and reviving and/or replacing the cells that make insulin.

The institute plans to open a clinical trial for the first type 1 diabetes vaccine tested in the U.S., part of The