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Imagine a time when diabetes shifts from being today’s crisis to becoming yesterday’s memory.

Driving Out Diabetes, a Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative, is bringing this vision closer to reality by investing in innovative research at the University of Utah. The goal is to discover and catalyze scientific breakthroughs that will lead to better prevention, treatments, and eventually cures for people with diabetes in Utah and beyond.

Research focuses on the following three key areas:

  1. Drug Discovery
  2. Uncovering Causes
  3. Diabetes Management and Prevention



Millions with diabetes rely on insulin injections to control blood sugar. But knowing how much and when to inject is an inexact science at best, putting diabetics at risk for serious complications.

Investigators at University of Utah Health are developing novel therapeutics to alleviate this problem. “Smart insulin” will take the guesswork out of dosing by automatically switching itself on when blood sugar levels are too high and shutting off when they are low.

A second tactic circumvents insulin and its associated problems altogether by searching for new classes of drugs that lower blood sugar in different ways.

2017 Research Investigators

  • Danny Hung-Chieh Chou, PhD, Department of Biochemistry – Development of a Novel “Smart” Insulin to Treat Diabetes
  • Claudio Villanueva, PhD, Department of Biochemistry - Development of Next-Generation Oral Glucose Lowering Drugs for the Treatment of Diabetes


Not only does diabetes cluster in families, but so does diabetic kidney disease, a complication that occurs in one of four diabetic adults.

Researchers at University of Utah Health have at their fingertips the Utah Population Database, a unique asset that has proven invaluable for uncovering the genetics of inherited diseases. Scientists are drawing on this powerful resource to search for disease genes that make people prone to developing these conditions.

Understanding the genetics behind disease will allow scientists to develop new strategies for screening, prevention, and treatment.

2017 Research Investigators

  • Lisa Cannon-Albright, PhD, Simon Fisher, MD, PhD, Craig Teerlink, PhD, Marcus Pezzolesi, PhD, MPH, Department of Internal Medicine – Identification of Diabetes Predisposition Genes in Utah Families
  • Marcus Pezzolesi, PhD, MPH, Department of Internal Medicine - An Integrated “Big-Data” Approach to Accelerate Gene Discovery in Diabetic Kidney Disease



Andrea and her team

Knowing that lifestyle changes can slow and even stop diabetes, U of U Health researchers are focusing on getting the right disease management information to the right people when they need it.

They are transforming electronic health records into a tool for supporting diabetes self-management.

By making the records a repository for patient-specific plans, health care providers across the health system will be able to reinforce each patient’s goals.

Investigators are also determining how to tailor diabetes prevention programs to meet the needs of ethnically diverse and low-income individuals who are at risk for diabetes to ensure a broader segment of our community has access to life-changing information.

2017 Research Investigators

  • Andrea Wallace, PhD, RN; Kensaku Kawamoto, MD, PhD, MHS; Nathan Ragle, MD; Andrew Wilson, PhD; College of Nursing, Department of Biomedical Informatics, Department of Internal Medicine - Collaborative Goal Setting for Treatment of Diabetes: Facilitating Primary Care Physician Reinforcement
  • Elissa Ozanne, PhD, Department of Population Health Sciences - Enrollment and Retention in the University of Utah Diabetes Prevention Program: A Qualitative Study


Training early career scientists in the use of cutting-edge techniques to tackle issues in diabetes will ensure that our children and grandchildren continue to reap the benefits of scientific discovery and innovation.

With support from the initiative, established mentors are guiding rising stars in projects to understand how a genetic mutation prevalent among Utahns contributes to diabetes and to identify and mitigate unique complications that arise when diabetes patients have cancer.

2017 Trainees

  • Santhosh Karanth, PhD, Department of Internal Medicine - Uncovering Hepatic Amino Acid Metabolism Regulation and the Relationship to Diabetes
  • Dominik Ose, PhD - Diabetes Prevention in Cancer Patients: Prevalence, Patient-Reported Outcomes, and Intervention
    • Mentor: Cornelia Ulrich, MS, PhD, Department of Population Health Sciences

Contact Us

Bridget Hughes, PhD

Director, Research Program Development
Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, Research Unit
Phone: 801-585-9304

Emily Kay

Senior Manager, Diabetes Strategic Initiatives
Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, Research Unit
Phone: 801-448-6325

Samantha Weeks, BS

Events & Communications Manager
Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, Research Unit
Phone: 443-417-3711