Celebrating 70 Years of The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Established in 1947 as the Experimental Biology and Medicine Institute, subsequently incorporated in 1950 by President Harry S Truman into the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases, the name of the institute was changed in 1972 to National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases, and then changed again in 1981 to the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and in 1986 to its present name following the creation of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
Today the NIDDK is approximately the fifth-largest of the 27 NIH institutes, and continues its mission to conduct and support medical research and research training and to disseminate science-based information on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutritional disorders, and obesity; and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases, to improve people’s health and quality of life.
Many significant accomplishments have been achieved over the past 70 years by NIDDK supported research, including the original metabolic chamber developed by Drs. G. Donald Whedon and Russell M. Wilder in 1957, and several Nobel Prize winning grantees such as the 2019 awards to Dr. Gregg L. Semenza in Physiology Medicine with NIH grantee Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr. for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.
Leading this organization since 2007 is Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers who provides scientific leadership and manages a staff of more than 630 employees and a budget of nearly $2.25 billion. Dr. Rodgers received his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from Brown University in Providence, R.I. He completed his residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. His fellowship training in hematology was in a joint program of the NIH with George Washington University and the Washington Veterans Administration Medical Center. In addition to his medical and research training, he earned an MBA, with a focus on the business of medicine/science, from Johns Hopkins University in 2005.
During a keynote address at the 2019 Johns Hopkins Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, Dr. Rogers spoke of how more than 50 years ago, NIDDK funded research on insulin pumps that hopefully could one day measure and deliver insulin for people with type 1 diabetes and how that successful pump was developed then being about the size of a large backpack and now about the size of your palm, and how they are being designed to operate wirelessly with a continuous glucose monitor using a computer algorithm — a device called the artificial pancreas.
"For people with type 1 diabetes who require insulin 24/7 and need daily insulin injections, these new devices are revolutionizing the way we deliver medical care. Thus, medical advancements that once seemed impossible are becoming reality and have a significant impact on public health", he said. "Long-term vision, creativity, and sustained dedication are necessary to advance a research mission. As we see with the insulin pump and developing the artificial pancreas system discovery leading to a new treatment or cure often emerges from incremental insights gained over many years and across multiple disciplines."
In an address to Americans regarding diabetes and minority health during National Diabetes Month, Dr. Rodgers emphasized how "of the more than 30 million people in the United States living with diabetes, each one is the most important member of their diabetes care team. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diabetes care, and treatment plans need to consider each person’s values, goals, needs, and preferences. Developing realistic goals – such as taking breaks for short walks during the day if you are too tired to be active in the evening– can help you manage your diabetes in a way that works for you.
At NIH, we are learning more about the importance of taking each person’s needs into account through research taking a “precision medicine” approach where a person’s genes, environment, lifestyle and other factors all help determine the best treatment for that person." explained Dr. Rodgers.