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Prize recipient’s research has led to the development of life-changing therapies for people with diabetes

09 Sep
2019

Three decades ago, only a small number of researchers talked about gut hormones. Today, many people view these hormones as building blocks for developing new therapies to confront the obesity and diabetes epidemics that are sweeping the world.

Daniel J. Drucker, University of Toronto, has studied the molecular mechanisms and physiological functions of hormones for 35 years, and his studies unravelling their biological actions have led to several fundamental discoveries and the development of life-changing therapies.

“When we started out 35 years ago, only a few researchers were interested in gut hormones. We could not have imagined that this knowledge would be translated into multiple new therapies that help millions of people with severe metabolic disorders today,” says Daniel J. Drucker, Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto and Senior Scientist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada.

For his extraordinary contributions, Daniel J. Drucker is receiving the 2019 EASD–Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence. The Prize, which is accompanied by DKK 6 million (€806,000), is awarded to recognize outstanding research or technology contributions that increase knowledge of diabetes, its disease mechanisms or its complications.

“I am ecstatic and honoured to receive the 2019 EASD–Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence. This is wonderful recognition of the ongoing scientific contributions of my laboratory trainees and will be enormously meaningful for us moving forward as we seek new mechanisms and opportunities for linking gut hormone action to the therapy of metabolic disorders,” says Daniel J. Drucker.

EASD President: a deserving prize recipient in all respects
The Prize is awarded in collaboration between the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) and the Novo Nordisk Foundation, an independent Danish foundation.

David R. Matthews, Professor and President of the EASD, says: “Daniel J. Drucker is universally recognized for his meritorious work on the physiology and pharmacology of glucagon-like peptides and their use for benefitting patients. His discoveries have led to several new treatments that have had a remarkable global impact on the management of people with diabetes and obesity. Daniel J. Drucker is in all respects an extremely worthy and deserving recipient of the 2019 EASD–Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence.”

Birgitte Nauntofte, CEO of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, says: “The purpose of this major prize is to recognize excellent contributions within diabetes research. Daniel J. Drucker is an expert and a leader in his field, and I would like to congratulate him on receiving the Prize and on his outstanding achievements, which have greatly influenced development within diabetes research and improved the lives of people with diabetes.”

A pioneer
Daniel J. Drucker was one of the pioneers in the mid-1980s who rekindled the interest in the action of gut hormones, principally glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). Today, the two major incretins, GLP-1 and gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), have become crucial in developing new therapies for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity. His discoveries describing GLP-1 action in the cardiovascular system were foundational for subsequent clinical trials demonstrating reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, cardiovascular death and all-cause mortality.

Later, he discovered that GLP-2 – the gut peptide cousin of GLP-1 – might be developed into an effective treatment of short-bowel syndrome – a condition caused by a lack of functional small intestine. People with this condition have constant diarrhoea, malnutrition and weight loss, and some even have fatty liver and may need a transplant. By treating patients with GLP-2, their fatty liver reversed and some of them could even lead normal lives without needing intravenous nutrition.

Throughout his career, Daniel J. Drucker has been dedicated to translating his findings into therapies to help people, and in recent years he has devoted himself to searching for new and even better therapies and understanding the detailed actions of peptide hormones.

“I am sure that the enormous potential of new peptide therapies will be further realized and help people with heart disease, liver disease and perhaps even individuals with degenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” Daniel J. Drucker says.

The Prize will be officially awarded at a ceremony at the 55th EASD Annual Meeting in Barcelona, Spain on 18 September.

About Daniel J. Drucker
Born in 1956
1996– :  Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto and Senior Scientist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto
1987–1991:  Assistant Professor, 1991–1996 Associate Professor, University of Toronto
1980–1987: Medical resident, Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Toronto and postdoctoral fellow, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
1980:  MD, University of Toronto

Selected awards and acknowledgements
2015:  Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London
2014:  Banting Medal for Scientific Achievement from the American Diabetes Association
2009:  Clinical Investigator Award from the Endocrine Society, Washington, DC

Daniel J. Drucker’s 350 publications have been cited more than 60,000 times.

About the Prize
The EASD–Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence is awarded to an internationally recognized researcher who has contributed significantly to diabetes research.

The Prize is accompanied by DKK 6 million – of which DKK 1 million is a personal award and the remaining DKK 5 million is for research purposes.

The Prize is awarded in collaboration between the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) and the Novo Nordisk Foundation. A special prize committee appointed by the EASD decides the recipient, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation donates the money accompanying the Prize.

The Prize recipient’s research may focus on prevention, treatment and/or basic research in physiological biochemistry. The research may also be clinically oriented. In addition, the Prize may be awarded for the “discovery of the decade” within diabetes research.

About EASD
The European Association for the Study of Diabetes e.V. (EASD) is a membership-based academic non-profit organization with more than 4000 members from over 110 countries. It was founded in 1965 and is based in Düsseldorf, Germany. The aims of the Association are to encourage and support research in the field of diabetes, the rapid diffusion of acquired knowledge and to facilitate its application.

The EASD Annual Meeting is one of the largest diabetes-related conferences in the world, with more than 15,000 participants from over 130 countries. EASD is also an active player in postgraduate education, organizing numerous courses each year both inside and outside of Europe. Since 1972, EASD has trained over 30,000 healthcare professionals through postgraduate training courses and online education activities.

In 2000, the EASD increased its commitment to stimulate diabetes research in Europe by creating the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD). Since its inception, the EFSD has committed over €100 million to diabetes research in Europe by various funding means.

EASD is the publisher of Diabetologia, a major monthly international diabetes journal.

For more information, please visit: www.easd.org.

Further information

Daniel J. Drucker: Barbara McCully, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Sinai Health System, Toronto, Canada, phone +1-416-586-4800 extension 8587, mobile +1-647-881-0148, Barbara.McCully@sinaihealthsystem.ca

EASD Press Team: press@easd.org

Novo Nordisk Foundation: Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, phone: +45 3067 4805, cims@novo.dk

Professor Daniel J. Drucker, University of Toronto is receiving the 2019 EASD–Novo Nordisk Foundation Diabetes Prize for Excellence for his outstanding research on gut hormones, which has led to pioneering discoveries and the development of life-changing therapies. The Prize is accompanied by €806,000.

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