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World-Renowned Immunologist Named Scientific Director of Diabetes Research Institute

One of the world’s leading diabetes experts, Matthias von Herrath, M.D., has been named the new scientific director of the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Dr. Matthias von Herrath
Matthias von Herrath, M.D.

Dr. von Herrath takes over the lead position at the institute that is among the top in the world, focused on cure-based research and advancing the integration of medicine and technology.

“I look forward to advancing the institute’s mission of accelerating curing type 1 diabetes,” said Dr. von Herrath, who will hold the Stacy Joy Goodman Chair. “Recent studies point to promising new directions in diabetes research at the scientific and clinical levels. It has never been a more exciting time!”

Dr. von Herrath joins the Miller School after serving as professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego. He also is vice president and senior medical officer for Novo Nordisk, Inc., a Danish pharmaceutical company.

Dr. von Herrath brings more than 25 years of dedicated research into diabetes and was twice ranked as the “#1 Juvenile Diabetes Expert” by Expertscape. He was the recipient of American Diabetes Association’s outstanding scientific achievement award in 2008, the German Diabetes Society’s Langerhans award in 2014, and a lifetime achievement award from The Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD).

“We welcome Dr. von Herrath as an innovative leader who will drive the DRI’s collaborative, fast-track approach to advancing cutting-edge disciplines with a real potential to deliver a cure for type 1 diabetes,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “Like the rest of our team, he is committed to the clinical translation of immune-based interventions into leading-edge patient care.”

With a staff of 90, including 21 full-time faculty, the DRI has a singular focus on discovering a biological cure for type 1 diabetes. The institute’s multidisciplinary team includes researchers, engineers, and clinicians, as well as a host of international partners.

“Dr. von Herrath is an experienced, visionary researcher who will continue to advance diabetes research and education at the DRI and across the University,” said Roy E. Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., Kathleen and Stanley Glaser Distinguished Chair; Rabbi Morris I. Esformes Endowed Chair in Medicine and Endocrinology; and professor and chair, Department of Medicine.

Launching a Distinguished Career

A native of Germany, Dr. von Herrath earned his medical degree in 1988 from Freiburg Medical School, where he also completed a Ph.D. equivalent thesis on biochemistry. His postdoctoral training included an intensive care residency at Diakonie Hospital, Freiburg; a fellowship in medicine/immunology at Freiburg Medical Center; and a fellowship in virology at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

Dr. von Herrath joined Scripps Research Institute in 1995 as a senior research associate, became assistant and associate professor in 1996, and joined La Jolla Institute in 2001, where he founded the center for type 1 diabetes to help patients with the disease.

“I got into type 1 diabetes research because I really thought it might be a problem that we can tackle in our lifetime,” he said.

In 2012 he joined Novo Nordisk, building up their Seattle R&D T1D center in order to advance promising therapies to the clinic. He is currently a member of the company’s global chief medical office team.

“The patient perspective is most important when developing novel preventions or cures for type 1 diabetes,” Dr. von Herrath said. “We want to better meet the patient’s needs, and bridging academic research and industry development can greatly accelerate our mission for a cure.”

As an early-stage researcher, Dr. von Herrath received a fellowship and a career development award from the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF). More recent honors include the Grotzky and Scholar Awards from the JDF and the George Köhler Award from the German Society of Immunology.

Advancing Diabetes Research

For more than a decade, Dr. von Herrath has been principal investigator for a study funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, “Specificity, Phenotype and Function of Pancreatic CD8 T Cells in Human Type 1 Diabetes.” He also received an NIH research grant for another study, “Integrated Functional Histopathology of the Diabetic Human Pancreas.”

With Novo Nordisk, Dr. von Herrath conducted the first successful large recent-onset T1D (type 1 diabetes) trial in adults and developed an antigenic vaccine to induce tolerance to islets which is now in phase 1 clinical studies together with Trialnet.

From 2016-2017, Dr. von Herrath was the group principal investigator for a Miller School study to support the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes (nPOD) and its strategy to use team science and human samples to understand the causes and development of type 1 diabetes. The study was funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust and received The George S. Eisenbarth nPOD Award for Team Science.

“Dr. von Herrath has consistently demonstrated excellence in collaborative research,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., executive dean for research; director, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center; Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research; and professor of medicine and biochemistry and molecular biology. “He will effectively leverage the already diverse and rich research assets at the Miller School and promote translational research towards finding a cure for type 1 diabetes.”

Dr. von Herrath has written or co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed articles and serves as associate editor for Science Advances and the Journal of Autoimmunity. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Society for Microbiology, the American Association of Immunologists, JDF International, and many other professional organizations.

Camillo Ricordi, M.D., tenured professor and chief of the Division of Cellular Transplantation, Department of Surgery, becomes DRI director emeritus and will advance to a new position leading major international clinical trials of pancreatic islets and stem cell-derived insulin producing cell transplants, with the objective to eliminate anti-rejection drugs.

Reflecting on Dr. von Herrath’s appointment, Dr. Ricordi said, “Matthias’ innovative research and achievements have contributed immensely to our knowledge of diabetes. His expertise and unparalleled experience is highly synergistic with our leadership in biologic replacement strategies. He is the ideal leader for growing the institute’s comprehensive research portfolio towards the next quantum leaps in the search of a cure for this devastating disease.”

When he is not engaged in research or academic pursuits, Dr. von Herrath enjoys playing the violin, blues and rock guitar, bicycling, and spending time with his family.

Tags: Dean Henri Ford, Diabetes Research Institute, Dr. Matthias von Herrath, juvenile diabetes, Miller School of Medicine, Novo Nordisk, type 1 diabetes