MCHRI Fuels Diverse Research Through Partnership with Stanford Diabetes Research Center

MCHRI partners with the Stanford Diabetes Research Center to fund projects related to maternal and child health and aims to advances the care of diabetes in patients. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Rayhan Lal, Instructor in Pediatrics, Endocrinology and Diabetes)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

By Laura Hedli

How can we improve insulin formulations?

Since water stations were installed in parks around San Francisco and the city enacted a soda tax, are we seeing a reduction in obesity?

How can we address the barriers and obstacles to diabetes device adoption for new users?

Pilot & Feasibility grants from Stanford Diabetes Research Center (SDRC) and Stanford Maternal & Child Health Research Center (MCHRI) are supporting investigators searching for answers to these research questions and others too, thereby accelerating the pace of diabetes research.

David Maahs, MD, PhD
Associate Director, Stanford Diabetes Research Center 

Since 2016 MCHRI has partnered with SDRC to fund projects related to maternal and child health.

“The first year we had to find people who were aligned with both the missions of SDRC and MCHRI,” says Program Manager for SDRC Kiran Kocherlakota, PhD. “However, as the partnership has evolved, I think it's been easier and easier to identify these alignments.”

Stanford Diabetes Research Center launched in 2016 with Professor of Developmental Biology Seung Kim, MD, PhD, at the helm. Investigators affiliated with the SDRC come from 23 different departments within three schools at Stanford—School of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences.

In 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the SDRC a five-year, $7.7 million P30 grant to fund its research, training, and clinical activities.

According to Professor of Pediatrics David Maahs, MD, PhD, who serves as the Associate Director of the SDRC, gaining campus-wide buy-in before submitting for the P30 was critical. To that end, he says securing early Pilot & Feasibility funding was beneficial.

“When we were submitting the grant, we could say: Look, we've already got this interest, we've already got institutional support,” he says.

Chair of Pediatrics Mary Leonard, MD, MSCE, serves as the Director for MCHRI, and under her leadership the partnership between SDRC and MCHRI has flourished. Cross-promotion of programs and seminar series has strengthened the link between the two centers. New ways of supporting research across these two institutions are emerging from ongoing discussions. One example is to provide research coordinators to support clinical projects that are aligned with the mission of both centers.

Joint Pilot & Feasibility grants from SDRC and MCHRI of $25-50,000 have boosted the careers of junior investigators, leading to larger awards.

Based on promising outcomes of applying new insulin formulations in animal models, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Eric Appel, PhD, secured an R01 for $2.97 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Two investigators have received additional MCHRI funding for their research efforts.

Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics Anisha Patel, MD, was named the MCHRI Arline and Pete Harman Endowed Faculty Scholar (2018-2021). Support of $300,000—$100,000 for three years (2018-2021)—will allow Dr. Patel to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a water promotion initiative in low-income elementary schools throughout the Bay Area.

Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics Molly Tanenbaum, PhD, receives MCHRI Instructor K Award Support to help bolster the research funding provided by her NIH K Award. Dr. Tanenbaum aims to reduce the cognitive and emotional burden of Type 1 diabetes by creating an onboarding program for new users of continuous glucose monitors and closed loop insulin pumps.

To learn more about diabetes research being conducted by these MCHRI-funded awardees, click on the capsules below.

Eric Appel, PhD

Anisha Patel, MD

Molly Tanenbaum, PhD

Investigators who have received Pilot & Feasibility funding from MCHRI and SDRC

  1. Eric Appel, PhD | Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering: “Novel ultra-fast insulin formulations for diabetes treatment” (2018)
  2. Nadine Nagy, PhD | Instructor, Department of Medicine: “The development of 4-methylumbelliferone analogs to prevent autoimmune diabetes” (2017)
  3. Diana Naranjo, MD | Research Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences: “Optimizing uptake and use of closed loop automated insulin delivery systems through virtual reality” (2017)
  4. Anisha Patel, MD | Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics: “Evaluating the impact of safe drinking water access and promotion in parks alongside soda taxes” (2019)
  5. Priya Prahalad, PhD | Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics (Endocrinology): “The use of diabetes technology to change clinical outcomes following new diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes in the pediatric population” (2019)
  6. Tom Soh, PhD | Professor, Electrical Engineering: “Real-time biosensor for continuous in vivo detection of glucose” (2018)
  7. Molly Tanenbaum, PhD | Instructor, Department of Pediatrics: “A pilot of ONBOARD: Overcoming barriers & obstacles to adopting diabetes devices for adults with Type 1 diabetes” (2019)

(Graphic courtesy of Kiran Kocherlakota)


Laura Hedli is a writer for the Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and contributes stories to the Stanford Maternal and Child Health Research Institute.