Research Summary

IBRI DIABETES CENTER (IDC) - LILLY DIABETES CENTER OF EXCELLENCE

Focus: Cutting-edge diabetes research

With the establishment in the fall of 2018 of the Lilly Diabetes Center of Excellence (LDCE), a collaboration between Eli Lilly and Company, Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine and the IBRI, the LDCE became the research core of the IBRI Diabetes Center.

The LDCE aims to become a nexus of strategically aligned basic diabetes research in central Indiana by recruiting promising and established principal investigators (PIs) who will pursue cutting-edge research in diabetes, diabetic complications and related metabolic disorders.

The PIs will have five-year sponsored appointments at the IBRI, subsidized by Lilly, as well as faculty appointments at the IU School of Medicine. Each PI will pursue their area of research with full academic freedom. Lilly is providing opportunities for close collaboration, including access to drug discovery tools and expertise, allowing faculty to rapidly explore the translational potential of their research. The LDCE will also serve as a bridge between academia and industry by providing opportunities for interaction, training and mentoring across the IBRI, Lilly and IU School of Medicine. 

 

Lab Team

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. She also is a member of the Indiana University Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases.

Cai’s current research focuses on beta cell protection and diabetes prevention. Her ultimate research goal is to better understand diseases and help improve quality of life.

Prior to joining the IBRI, Cai was an instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School. She worked in the laboratory of Dr. Peng Yi and the CRISPR screen core facility at the Joslin Diabetes Center. Her research projects used a multidisciplinary approach to investigate beta cell physiology, including cell regeneration, cell function, stress response, and autoimmune protection.

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 was trained by Dr. Minna Woo and received her PhD in medical science from the University of Toronto, Canada.

Cai was a three-time awardee of the Best Annual Trainee Award in the Banting and Best Diabetes Center at the University of Toronto. Her research works led to publications in peer-reviewed international journals, including Nature Metabolism, Cell Metabolism, PNAS and Diabetes.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.