Research Summary

IBRI DIABETES CENTER (IDC)

Focus: The molecular basis of diabetes

Researchers in the IBRI Diabetes Center (IDC) focus on the molecular basis of diabetes and its complications, including mechanisms for beta cell regeneration. The IDC is highly collaborative and structured to support basic science research seeking to understand the disease while achieving technological breakthroughs in the way we diagnose, treat and manage diabetes in Indiana and beyond.

The IDC includes the lab of the center administrative director, Robert Considine, PhD, the Considine Lab, the lab of the center scientific director, Decio Eizirik, MD, PhD, the Eizirik Lab, and the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence (LDCE), a collaboration between Eli Lilly and Company, Indiana University School of Medicine and the IBRI that includes the Flak Lab, the Templin Lab, the Kalwat Lab and the Zhang Lab.

The IDC aims to become a nexus of strategically aligned basic diabetes research in Indianapolis and the state. 

Lab Team

Fiona Armoo

Fiona Armoo

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Fiona Armoo

Fiona Armoo

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Fiona Armoo joined the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) in February 2021 as an assistant research associate in Dr. Michael Kalwat’s lab. Armoo works with Dr. Kalwat to research the molecular mechanisms of regulated secretions in cells and the use of pharmacological tools for this purpose.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Armoo worked as a COVID-19 lab technologist, where she was responsible for COVID-19 diagnostics using a lab technique called real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Armoo received her bachelor’s degree in biology from The College of Wooster in May 2020. While at Wooster, she researched how the volatiles of brown marmorated stink bugs inhibit the blood feeding behavior of the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Armoo was born in Ghana and moved to the US in 2012.

Olivia Ballew, PhD

Olivia Ballew, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Olivia Ballew, PhD

Olivia Ballew, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Olivia Ballew, PhD, joined the IBRI in August 2020 as a postdoctoral fellow. She works on the mechanisms of pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction in type 1 diabetes in the lBRI Diabetes Center under Dr. Decio Eizirik.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Olivia completed her PhD at Indiana University. Under Dr. Soni Lacefield, Olivia studied the mechanisms underlying meiotic commitment in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. She discovered novel roles for two checkpoints in ensuring meiotic commitment.

Olivia received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012.

Additionally, Olivia competes at the elite level in the marathon. She qualified for and ran in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Luiz Barella, PhD

Luiz Barella, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Luiz Barella, PhD

Luiz Barella, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Luiz Barella, PhD, joined the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) in January 2021 as a postdoctoral fellow. He works to understand the molecular pathways that lead to beta cell dysfunction and death and that trigger the deleterious dialogue with the immune system in type 1 diabetes in Dr. Decio Eizirik's lab within the IBRI Diabetes Center.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Barella worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. There he focused on identifying the molecular pathways of beta-arrestins in pancreatic beta cells function and dysfunction. These intracellular proteins are closely associated with G-protein coupled receptors. Through his work, he was able to identify potential new targets for anti-diabetic drugs.

Barella received his PhD at the University of Maringa in Brazil in 2013, where he studied the roles of the autonomic nervous system in diabetes and metabolic diseases associated with the environmental conditions of the early life that lead to the development of metabolic disorders in adult life.

Erica Cai, PhD

Erica Cai, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Erica Cai, PhD

Erica Cai, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Erica Cai, PhD, joined the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence within the IBRI Diabetes Center in April 2021.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Cai was an instructor in medicine in the Joslin Diabetes Center, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. She works on both T1D and T2D animal models and her current work focuses on identifying new candidate genes that are able to protect beta cells in autoimmune diabetes models by using CRISPR/Cas9 genome-wide sequencing.

Cai obtained her bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Taipei Medical University and her master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from National Taiwan University. She moved to Canada to receive her PhD in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism from the University of Toronto.

Robert Considine, PhD

Robert Considine, PhD

Administrative Director, IBRI Diabetes Center

Robert Considine, PhD

Robert Considine, PhD

Administrative Director, IBRI Diabetes Center

Robert V. Considine, PhD, joined the Division of Endocrinology at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Ind., as an Assistant Professor in 1997 and was promoted to Professor in 2013. Prior to his appointment at the IU School of Medicine, he was on the faculty of the Department of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pa., where he had completed his doctoral training.

Dr. Considine’s research is focused on understanding the contribution of obesity to the development of diabetes and its complications. In early work, his lab made seminal observations about the function of the adipose tissue hormone leptin in humans.  More recently, the Considine Lab has focused on the effects of bariatric surgery to alter gut hormone release and improve glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity.  In collaboration with David Kareken, PhD, at the IU School of Medicine, Dr. Considine is also utilizing neuroimaging techniques to understand the reward system response to food cues in human subjects.  

Dr. Considine is currently the Associate Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Diabetes Center at the IU School of Medicine, and oversees the Analyte Laboratory, which provides quantitation of adipokines, cytokines, gut peptides and hormones from human and animal samples.  He is also the Statewide Director for Endocrine and Reproductive Biology, a second-year course in the IU School of Medicine curriculum. 

Christopher Contreras, PhD

Christopher Contreras, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Christopher Contreras, PhD

Christopher Contreras, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Christopher Contreras joined the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) in September 2020 as a postdoctoral fellow in the IBRI Diabetes Center’s Templin Lab.

Prior to working at the IBRI, Contreras was a postdocoral fellow at Indiana University School of Medicine in the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research. There, he was investigating the role extracellular vesicles play in beta cell signaling, mechanisms involved with extracellular vesicle cargo loading, as well as the potential for extracellular vesicles as biomarkers for diabetes.

Contreras received his PhD. in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2018 from Indiana University, where he researched abnormalities in glycogen metabolism in Lafora disease. In 2008 he received his bachelors degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of New Mexico.

Additionally, Contreras enjoys mountain biking, fishing and camping.

Stephane Demine, PhD

Stephane Demine, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Stephane Demine, PhD

Stephane Demine, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, IBRI Diabetes Center

Stephane Demine is a postdoctoral fellow working in the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence located here in the Diabetes Center. He works with Decio Eizirik, whom he partnered with at the University of Brussels.

While at the University of Brussels, he helped to identify new biomarkers suitable for the in vivo imaging of pancreatic beta cells, in collaboration with other universities (University of Mons, University of Brussels (VIB)) and industrial partners (Eurogentec). The most-advanced probe, a short camelid antibody targeting DPP6, was recently shown to accumulate in human beta cells grafted in mice and to correlate with the number of cells transplanted. The preclinical development of these probes is continuing at the IBRI Diabetes Center.

He also focused on the characterization of beta cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). He showed that human iPSC-derived beta cells respond to pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β + IFNγ and IFNα), by activating the same pathogenic processes as adult human primary beta cells. These cells thus represent a valuable tool for future research on the pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes. His future goal is to use this cell model to better understand how some single nucleotide polymorphisms are associated to type 1 diabetes developments.

Stephane obtained his PhD at the University of Namur in Belgium in 2016, where he worked extensively on the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms triggered by a mild mitochondrial uncoupling in white adipocytes, a new anti-obesity therapeutic approach.

Decio Eizirik, MD, PhD

Decio Eizirik, MD, PhD

Scientific Director, IBRI Diabetes Center

Decio Eizirik, MD, PhD

Decio Eizirik, MD, PhD

Scientific Director, IBRI Diabetes Center

Dr. Eizirik is a Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) Center for Diabetes Research, Brussels, Belgium, and a member of the ULB medical faculty. He is also an Investigator for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) and Scientific Director of the IBRI Diabetes Center.

He has published more than 370 full papers and reviews in peer-reviewed international journals and has received several national and international prizes, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Diabetes Care Research Award in 1998; the “2012 Albert Renold Prize Lecture for Outstanding Achievements in Research on the Islets of Langerhans” awarded by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) in 2012, and the “2013 Rumbough Award for outstanding achievements in type 1 diabetes research” awarded by the JDRF.

Dr. Eizirik is listed by the ISI Essential Science Indicators among the 1 percent most cited scientists in Clinical Medicine and Biology & Biochemistry, with an h-index of 81. He has served as Honorary (Scientific) Secretary of the EASD and as Deputy Editor of Diabetologia, the official journal of the EASD. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms regulating insulitis and beta cell apoptosis in type 1 diabetes, pancreatic beta cell imaging, generation of beta cells from inducible pluripotent cells and on the search for novel approaches to prevent the progressive loss of beta cell mass in diabetes.

Andrew Elmendorf

Andrew Elmendorf

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Andrew Elmendorf

Andrew Elmendorf

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Andrew Elmendorf joined the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) in January 2021 as an Assistant Research Associate in Dr. Jonathan Flak's lab. Elmendorf works with Dr. Flak to study diabetes, specifically how the central nervous system regulates glucose metabolism.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Elmendorf was a research technician at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he was involved in prostate cancer research, as well as researching the cellular response to stress in health and disease. During his undergraduate years, he was involved in medical research investigating molecular mechanisms by which bone tissue senses mechanical loading, also at the IU School of Medicine.

Elmendorf earned his B.S. in biology from Indiana University in the spring of 2020.

Jonathan Flak, PhD

Jonathan Flak, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Jonathan Flak, PhD

Jonathan Flak, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Jonathan Flak joined the IBRI in September 2019. Immediately upon arrival he began setting up his own lab within the IBRI Diabetes Center. In his lab, Jonathan will focus on studying the central nervous system’s regulation of glucose metabolism as it relates to diabetes.

More specifically, Jonathan will build on work he began at the University of Michigan that is aimed at distinguishing markers for ventromedial hypothalamic neurons involved in glycemic regulation from the rest of the nucleus, a known brain area critical to balancing glucose, to help determine new targets/brain systems that may prove important in future therapeutics. He plans to identify the downstream systems from these subsets of ventromedial hypothalamic neurons to establish the mechanisms of how the brain can tune metabolic function (e.g. energy expenditure, glucose uptake and glucose mobilization).

Prior to establishing his lab here at the IBRI, Jonathan worked in the lab of Martin Myers at the University of Michigan. This project was an outgrowth from his work in this lab, where he began using cre-dependent mouse models and viral systems to study leptin action in the brainstem periaqueductal gray and lateral parabrachial nuclei. His work with Prof. Myers led to research published in Nature Neuroscience and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Jonathan received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biopsychology and Cognitive Sciences with honors from the University of Michigan in 2004. And, he obtained his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati in 2011.

Austin House

Austin House

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Austin House

Austin House

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Austin House joined the IBRI in July 2020 as a Research Associate in the IBRI Diabetes Center (IDC). He is part of a team focused on the molecular basis of diabetes and its complications, including mechanisms for beta cell regeneration. He and the IDC team are seeking to understand the disease while achieving technological breakthroughs in the way we diagnose, treat and manage diabetes in Indiana and beyond.

Prior to joining the IBRI, he served as a graduate research assistant at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, which is where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2018 and just recently received his master’s degree in pharmacology.

Austin has a background in bioassays including qPCR, ELISA, calcium and nitrite assays. He also is experienced in cell culturing, CRISPR-Cas9 and plasmid cloning techniques. His recent work has been to evaluate an immortalized microglia cell model activated with LPS and treated with a drug toward the determination of whether treatment affects inflammatory pathways.

David Johnson

David Johnson

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

David Johnson

David Johnson

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

David Johnson joined the IBRI in November 2019 as an assistant research associate in the IBRI Diabetes Center (IDC). In this role, he will work with Johnathan Flak to study the central nervous system’s regulation of glucose metabolism as it relates to diabetes.

David was previously a study technician at Covance Laboratories in Greenfield, IN, where he performed absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME), good laboratory practice and toxicology research studies. He also was responsible for the collection and documentation of pertinent data, including test material administration, sample collections and sample processing. While studying at Michigan State University, he served as a teaching assistant in the Charles Drew Science Scholars Program and was an undergraduate research intern in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

David received his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience – cognitive and computational from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.

Michael Kalwat, PhD

Michael Kalwat, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Michael Kalwat, PhD

Michael Kalwat, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Michael Kalwat joined the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence within the IBRI Diabetes Center in November 2020. He also is a member of the Indiana University School of Medicine Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases (CDMD). Kalwat’s research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of regulated secretion and the use of genetic and pharmacological tools for this purpose.

The Kalwat Lab will bridge small molecule and genetic high-throughput screening with target and pathway identification in dedicated secretory cell types. Because many of these cell types malfunction in metabolic diseases (i.e., failure of insulin-secreting β cells in diabetes), new knowledge about the regulation of their basic cell biological functions is critical to advancing the field and therapeutic development.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Kalwat trained as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Melanie Cobb at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he developed key reagents for assaying secretory cell function. His work yielded a cohort of distinct small molecule secretion modulators with impacts on calcium influx, cAMP generation and the unfolded protein response.

Kalwat received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Purdue University in 2007. Subsequently, he completed his PhD dissertation in Debbie Thurmond’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2012, where he focused on cytoskeletal regulation of exocytosis. 

Li Lin

Li Lin

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Li Lin

Li Lin

Assistant Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Li Lin joined the IBRI in September 2020 as an assistant research associate in the IBRI Diabetes Center. In this role, she works with Dr. Andrew Templin on the mechanisms of diabetes pathogenesis related to islet immune responses and beta cell death.

Before joining the IBRI, Li worked as a research technician at University of Pittsburgh, where she was involved with lab operations and studies investigating antifungal immune response in the kidney. She also was responsible for animal colony breeding, maintenance and genotyping.

Li received her B.S. in Nursing from Wuhan University in China in 2016 and then earned her Master of Public Health degree in Infectious Diseases and Microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018.

Daniel Preston

Daniel Preston

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Daniel Preston

Daniel Preston

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Daniel Preston joined the IBRI in July 2020 as a Research Associate in the lab of Dr. Decio Eizirik in the IBRI Diabetes Center. He is part of a team responsible for maintaining and differentiating inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), deriving pancreatic beta cells and conducting functional studies utilizing iPSCs.

Prior to joining the IBRI, he worked as a molecular biologist for Advanced Testing Laboratories in the Lilly Research Labs, identifying novel biomarkers and studying their roles in several autoimmune diseases. From 2016 until 2019, he studied as a graduate student in the Blazer-Yost lab at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. There he focused on identifying the molecular pathways responsible for the production and secretion of cerebrospinal fluid from the choroid plexus and contributed to studies aimed at ameliorating the pathophysiology associated with hydrocephalus.

Daniel received his Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis in 2015. He obtained his Master of Science in Biology with a focus on Molecular Biology and Cell Physiology from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis in 2019.

Gitanjali Roy

Gitanjali Roy

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Gitanjali Roy

Gitanjali Roy

Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Gitanjali Roy joined the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) in March 2021 as a Research Associate in the IBRI Diabetes Center (IDC). She works in Dr. Michael Kalwat's lab to research the molecular mechanisms of secretory cells using genetic and pharmacological tools.

Before joining the IBRI, she graduated with a master's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology in January 2021 from the Indiana University School of Medicine, where her research area was bioinformatic analysis of phosphoproteome of triple negative breast cancer cells. She also worked with different data analysis softwares for mass spectrometry proteomics data investigating the changes in cellular signaling in response to phosphorylation.

She graduated from the University of Calcutta in India with a bachelor's degree in life sciences in 2007 and a master's degree in molecular biology and genetics in 2009. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry in quality assurance from 2009 to 2018, where she was responsible for the operation of the analytical chemistry lab and microbiology department.

Donalyn Scheuner

Donalyn Scheuner, PhD

Senior Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Donalyn Scheuner

Donalyn Scheuner, PhD

Senior Research Associate, IBRI Diabetes Center

Donalyn Scheuner, Ph.D., joined the IBRI in March 2019 as Senior Research Associate in the IBRI Diabetes Center. In this role, she is responsible for planning and coordinating the research on the mechanisms of pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction and death in type 1 diabetes, working in close collaboration with Dr. Decio Eizirik.

Prior to the IBRI and since 2017, she worked as a Scientific Consultant for DLS Consulting in Greenfield, IN, on a multisite NIH project grant. From 2009 to 2017, she served as Senior Scientist in Islet Biology at Lilly Research Laboratories in Indianapolis. From 2004 to 2009, Dr. Scheuner was a Research Specialist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. From 1995 to 2004, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at HHMI. And from 1994 to 1995, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow focusing on NIH Developmental Neurobiology and Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.

Dr. Scheuner has been responsible for more than three-dozen scientific publications and nearly the same number of presentations, and she has been recognized with numerous honors, awards and fellowships. She earned her Ph.D. in Pharmacology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, and her B.S. in Chemistry, also at Michigan.

Andrew Templin, PhD

Andrew Templin, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Andrew Templin, PhD

Andrew Templin, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Andrew Templin joined the IBRI Diabetes Center in June 2020. He also holds positions at the Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine and the Roudebush VA Medical Center. Andrew’s lab studies the relationship between islet inflammation and beta cell dysfunction and death in the setting of diabetes. Ultimately, the goal of the Templin Lab is to uncover novel mechanisms of diabetes pathogenesis that affect islet beta cell health, and to use this information to develop new treatments for diabetes.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Andrew served as an Acting Instructor of Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. During his time there, he studied the role of islet amyloidosis in islet inflammation and beta cell loss in collaboration with Dr. Steven Kahn. This collaboration led to publications in Diabetes, Diabetologia, and Diabetes Care, among others.

Andrew received his Bachelor of Science degree from IU in 2006, during which time he was a member of the Hutton Honors College. After working and studying at Northwestern University in the Feinberg School of Medicine, Andrew returned to IU and obtained his PhD in Cellular and Integrative Physiology under the mentorship of Dr. Raghu Mirmira, graduating in 2014.

Andrew is a native Hoosier who enjoys travel, soccer, the Chicago Cubs and Golden Retrievers.

Li Zhang, MD, PhD

Li Zhang, MD, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Li Zhang, MD, PhD

Li Zhang, MD, PhD

Assistant Investigator, IBRI Diabetes Center

Li Zhang joined the IBRI Diabetes Center in December 2020 and established the Zhang Lab in the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute's Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence. In addition to her appointment at the IBRI, she also is a member of the Indiana University Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases.

Dr. Zhang's lab studies the pathogenesis of islet autoimmunity and antigen-specific immune interventions for treating type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease. Her group has developed multiple immune interventions, including antigen-specific vaccine, monoclonal antibodies and engineered T cells, and tested their efficacies in reducing the progression of T1D in the spontaneous T1D mouse model.

Ultimately, the goal of the Zhang Lab is to translate the proof of principles tested in pre-clinical models and to develop a drug-like immune therapy to treat new onset T1D in high-risk individuals.

Dr. Zhang started T1D and autoimmune diseases research as a research scholar at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Diabetes Center in 2005 after receiving her PhD from the University of Shandong School of Medicine. In 2006, she started her postdoctoral training under the mentorship of Dr. George S. Eisenbarth at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, University of Colorado.

In 2015, she joined the Baylor College of Medicine as an assistant professor to build her independent lab. During her time there, she studied the role of islet antigen-specific T cells and CAR-T cells in preventing T1D. In addition, she showed the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies in reducing T1D can be significantly improved with broad islet antigen-specificity. These projects were published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, Journal of Visual Experiments, mAbs and others.