OKLAHOMA CITY – An internationally renowned diabetes researcher whose discoveries led to the development of two new treatments for Type 2 diabetes will be honored with the 2019 Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes.
Daniel J. Drucker, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, has been chosen as the 2019 Hamm Prize Laureate. The honor comes with a $250,000 award -- the largest of its kind in the world – and will be awarded this fall by Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
The Hamm Prize recognizes and encourages lasting advances in the field of diabetes research. It is awarded to an individual who has either demonstrated lifelong contributions to the field or realized a singular advance, especially in leading toward a cure.
“My hope in awarding this unprecedented international research prize is that we would ignite worldwide scientific interest and innovation to find a cure for diabetes in this generation,” said Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources Inc., headquartered in Oklahoma City.
Hamm provided the endowment to establish the prize, following his lead gift in 2007 for the establishment of Harold Hamm Diabetes Center. His endowment of the prize provides for its awarding every other year in perpetuity. This endowment represents a unique private/public partnership using philanthropic dollars as a catalyst for desperately needed medical advances, which is especially beneficial in the current environment marked by declining federal funding for medical research.
“I am grateful to Mr. Hamm for his generosity and commitment to end the threat of diabetes. This award brings an international spotlight on research that is essential to address this disease and helps to attract top clinicians and researchers to Harold Hamm Diabetes Center on our OU Health Sciences Center campus,” said OU President James L. Gallogly.
Drucker’s pioneering diabetes research has focused on a group of hormones called incretins, which help the pancreas produce insulin to use the energy it receives from food. When working properly, incretins help the body to control blood glucose and insulin secretion, regulate appetite, control the absorption of nutrients from food and convert those nutrients to energy.
However, in Type 2 diabetes, an incretin called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) is in short supply or is affected by a protein that makes it inactive. Drucker’s laboratory uncovered the pathways that led to the development of two drug therapies that mimic and enhance GLP-1 so it can work naturally.
“Dr. Drucker’s discoveries have been revolutionary in diabetes research,” said Jacob E. “Jed” Friedman, Ph.D., director of Harold Hamm Diabetes Center. “His dedication to this field has resulted in new treatments for millions of people around the world.”
Drucker began his career as a clinical endocrinologist but decided to focus on research when he recognized its potential to improve lives. He is a senior researcher at the Lunefeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
Drucker was chosen for the prize by an international jury of diabetes scientists who met in Oklahoma in April. Jury members are: George L. King, M.D., Harvard Medical School; Bruce A. Buckingham, M.D., Stanford University; Bernard Thorens, Ph.D., University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Jay S. Skyler, M.D., University of Miami; and Steven E. Kahn, M.B., Ch.B., University of Washington.
Skyler, who has known Drucker for many years, said he is driven not only to understand the basic biology of the body’s state during Type 2 diabetes, but to translate his discoveries into new therapies. Drucker is someone who is “totally dedicated to getting the correct answers and doing science the right way,” Skyler said.
“He is tenacious, and he has added more to our knowledge of this general space than anyone,” Skyler said. “He is truly an outstanding recipient of the Hamm Prize.”
“This honor bestowed upon my research group is further affirmation of the scientific excellence in metabolism research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and the University of Toronto,” Drucker said. “Since 1921, and the discovery of insulin, Canadian scientists have continued to make important contributions to understanding the factors causing diabetes and the development of new diabetes medications. I am very pleased that the work of our group, including many students and postdoctoral fellows, that has developed over a period of 25 years from basic science discovery to clinical impact, has been highlighted for recognition by the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center.”
Drucker’s discoveries in the research laboratory are unique in that they have already been transformed into therapies to help patients with Type 2 diabetes live healthier and happier lives, Kahn said.
“From my perspective, Dan’s legacy is already here,” Kahn said. “The question is, ‘How much bigger will it get?’”
The 2019 Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes will be presented during the Connect + Cure Gala at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City on October 22, 2019. The Connect + Cure Gala is a biennial gala to benefit the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center and to raise awareness of diabetes research, clinical care and prevention.