Mark Atkinson, Ph.D.
Director, UF Diabetes Institute
Professor, Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics
Ph.D., University of Florida
Pathogenesis/Type 1 diabetes, Immunology, Microbiome, JDRF nPOD, Prevention Studies
Dr. Mark Atkinson is currently the American Diabetes Association Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research at the University of Florida (UF), the Jeffrey Keene Family Professor, and the Director for the UF Diabetes Institute. The author of over 600 publications, 2023 marks his 40th year of investigation into the field of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Expertscape notes him to be among the top three most cited authors in T1D, at a global level, over the last two decades. His research interests include studies of the pathogenesis and natural history of T1D, immune regulation, clinical trials for T1D prevention/reversal, and pancreatic pathology. He has also been active in a leadership service to the diabetes research and care community, with active administrative or advisory service with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), JDRF, National Institutes of Health, the Immunology of Diabetes Society, and more. He has served as the ad Hoc Editor in Chief of the ADA journals Diabetes and Diabetes Care for more than a decade. He is the founding Executive Director of what is likely the world’s largest research program in T1D, known as nPOD, with support to over 300 research projects in 21 countries. He has been the recipient of continual research funding from the NIH since 1990 and his efforts have been supported by numerous agencies including the JDRF, ADA, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, among others. Dr. Atkinson has been the recipient of numerous scientific and humanitarian-based awards for his academic and charitable efforts including: the ADA’s Outstanding Scientific Achievement, Harold Rifkin, and Albert Renold awards; JDRF’s Rumbough and Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine awards, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Jacobeus award. Dr. Atkinson has served as an advisor to over two dozen pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and, a member of multiple clinical trial consortia (e.g., NIH TrialNet, NIH ITN, INNODIA). Finally, Dr. Atkinson is active at a global level for causes related to the care and treatment of those in the developing world as well as identifying variances in the pathogenesis of diabetes in these regions. For this cause, he co-founded Insulin for Life USA, one of the world’s largest charaties providing diabetes management supplies to the developing world and in domestic disasters, where he serves as the organization’s President.
Key Research Advances and Innovation
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
Dr. Atkinson is currently the executive director for nPOD. nPOD is a collaborative Type 1 diabetes research project funded by JDRF. It supports scientific investigators by providing, without cost, rare and difficult to obtain tissues beneficial to their research. nPOD currently supports over 140 Type 1 diabetes-related scientific studies at institutions around the world. To learn more, visit the nPOD website.