Domenico Accili, MD, Wins Steiner Award
for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research

Domenico Accili, MD, Russell Berrie Foundation Professor of Diabetes at Columbia University, is the recipient of the 2013 Donald F. Steiner Award for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research.

Dr. Accili is a graduate of the University of Rome School of Medicine in Italy and he trained in Medicine at the University Hospital “Gemelli”, also in Rome. Following a Fogarty Fellowship in the Diabetes Branch of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, he became Chief of the Section on Genetics and Hormone Action of the National Institute of Child Health at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Since 1999, he has served on the faculty of Columbia University at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

A major focus of Dr. Accili's current research involves coaxing the gut to produce insulin by “knocking out” a transcription factor on the insulin gene. Transcription factors are small chemicals that tell the DNA in cells what to do; think of them as operating instructions, in this case for the hormone insulin. When Dr. Accili and his reserach team at Columbia University's Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center knocked out the transcription factor known as ‘foxo1’, insulin started to be produced, but not in the pancreas – it happened in the gut. The findings made international news when they were first published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics in March 2012. Since that time, the Berrie Center, together with laboratories and pharmaceutical companies around the world, have begun to contemplate and act upon the significance of the discovery and its promsise for a cure of type 1 diabetes.  

As reported in Cell in September 2012, the Accili lab also recently discovered that the pancreatic insulin-producing cells in mice with type 2 diabetes do not die off with the progression of the disease, as scientists previously thought. Instead, they revert back to an earlier stage of development. Dr. Accili is currently proving that a similar process occurs in humans with type 2 diabetes, after which he will determine ways in which this de-differentiation can be reversed and the cells can be tweaked back into insulin-producing cells. His research team will then search for compounds that reverse or stop the process.

The Steiner Award was established in 2006 to honor an investigator carrying out research in the field of diabetes. The award is named for Donald F. Steiner, MD, the A.N. Pritzker Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, a pioneering diabetes investigator and discoverer of proinsulin. The Steiner Award is an international award that is hosted by the University of Chicago. The selection committee is chaired by Louis H. Philipson, MD, PhD, and includes Donald F. Steiner, MD.

Past award recipients include: 

  • Steven E. Shoelson, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School
  • Michael S. German, MD, University of California, San Francisco
  • Susumu Seino, MD, D.M.Sci., Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine
  • Roger D. Cone, PhD, Vanderbilt University
  • George Eisenbarth, MD, PhD, University of Colorado
  • Daniel J. Drucker, MD, University of Toronto
  • Andrew Hattersley, MD, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth 

Dr. Accili has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2003 Lilly Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement by the American Diabetes Association. His work has been published in over 150 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. Dr. Accili currently serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. He is a member of several advisory panels, including the NIH Beta Cell Biology Consortium and the Special Statutory Funding for Type 1 Diabetes.

To learn more about Dr. Accili and to support his work, contact the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center Development Office at 917-484-0090.