Mark Atkinson, Ph.D.
Director, UF Diabetes Institute
Dr. Atkinson is the American Diabetes Association Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research and the Jefferey Keene Family Professor at the University of Florida. The author of more than 375 publications, Dr. Atkinson has devoted more than 30 years of investigation into the field of type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes. He is the recipient of multiple scientific and humanitarian based awards for these efforts. Those include three from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The first was the Gerold and Gayla Grodsky award (2001) provided to the outstanding Ph.D. investigating type 1 diabetes. More recently, he was (twice) awarded the Mary Tyler Moore & S. Robert Levine M.D. award for translational research on type 1 diabetes (2004 and 2008). Dr. Atkinson was also a recent recipient of the prestigious Eli Lilly Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the American Diabetes Association (2004), a rare honor in type 1 diabetes from that organization. Most recently, he received the Barbara Davis Award for contributions to the field seeking to prevent type 1 diabetes. He has also been active in a leadership service to the type 1 diabetes community, with active administrative or advisory service to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diapedia, The American Diabetes Association, The National Institutes of Health, and the Immunology of Diabetes Society. His interest in collaboration has driven his participation in a variety of organizations (e.g., the Brehm Coalition, the Helmsley Trust Type 1 Diabetes Centers) and technologies (e.g., nPOD Datashare) are representative examples of that interest. Finally, Dr. Atkinson is active at a global level for causes related to the care and treatment of those in the third world; especially and including persons with type 1 diabetes. For this cause, he serves as President of Insulin for Life USA, and is an Advisor to Life for a Child.
When my research efforts in type 1 diabetes began over 30 years ago, my (then) mentor suggested that if I found solutions to three challenges during my career, I would have done a good thing in life. Those challenges were to…
1. Determine what causes type 1 diabetes.
2. Identify a means to predict who will eventually develop the disease.
3. Find a method to prevent and cure the disorder.
This list was, and remains, no small inventory of tasks to accomplish and unfortunately, only one (goal #2) has effectively been addressed by the community of type 1 diabetes investigators, of which we are a part. As a result, our research group remains fixated on questions related to why the disease develops, as well as identifying a therapy that would dramatically improve the lives of those with type 1 diabetes.
To some, our method to achieving these goals might appear unfocused (at best) or the work of those easily distracted (at worst). However, we believe that adopting a series of core values renders our research group “unique” and form the basis for a team which we take considerable pride in:
1. Honesty and integrity are both priority #1.
2. Everything we do must be translational; all roads lead to patients with type 1 diabetes.
3. Our goal is to collaborate, not compete, with other investigators.
4. Be practical in our ideas and do not over promise what we can deliver.
5. Consider no scientific dogma beyond question.
6. Providing hope for people with type 1 diabetes counts FAR more than papers and grant dollars.
What We Do
Our studies range the gamut of type 1 diabetes research and include, but our not limited to the following major areas:
- Organization and performance of clinical trails
- Recovery and analysis of pancreata and relevant tissues
- Characterizing the immunologic and genetic abnormalities associated with the disease
- Utilizing animal models for the disorder, identify therapeutic interventions (prevention and/or reversal) suitable for translation to patients
- Identifying the role for environment and its factors in disease development
Current Clinical Trials
Dr. Atkinson is currently the executive director for nPOD. nPOD is a collaborative type 1 diabetes research project funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). It supports scientific investigators by providing, without cost, rare and difficult to obtain tissues beneficial to their research. nPOD currently supports over 30 type 1 diabetes-related scientific studies at institutions around the world. To find out more, please visit their website.