President Robert Zimmer recently awarded named professorships to two Department of Medicine physician scientists: Bana Jabri, MD,PhD (Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition) and Louis H. Philipson, MD, PhD ( Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism) effective January 1, 2018. Dr. Jabri, a world expert in celiac disease, has been named as Sarah and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor, and Louis Philipson, MD, PhD, an internationally recognized expert on the biophysics of insulin secretion whose innovative work has significantly impacted clinical outcomes of patients with diabetes, has been named the inaugural James C. Tyree Professor of Diabetes Research and Care.
Dr. Jabri is a world leader in the study of celiac disease and mucosal immunology and has made seminal discoveries relating to the mechanisms underlying the development of complex inflammatory disorders such as IBD & type-1 diabetes. Her work has led to new insights in determining what triggers the abnormal reaction to gluten in celiac disease and recent discoveries have demonstrated the possibility that vaccines could one day be used to prevent the disease.
Dr. Jabri received her MD at the Institut Pasteur and Paris VII in Paris France where she achieved clinical certification in Pediatrics and GI. She completed her fellowship training at NIH in Molecular Biology and Allergology before returning to Paris to earn her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Paris. She has held positions in Paris, at Princeton University and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NY. In 2002 she arrived at the University of Chicago as an Assistant Professor in Pathology. In 2006, she joined the Section of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition as Associate Professor and was promoted to full Professor in 2011. Dr. Jabri serves as Vice Chair for Research for the Department of Medicine, and Co-Director, along with Dr. Gene Chang, of the NIH funded University of Chicago Digestive Disease Research Core Center.
Dr. Jabri’s groundbreaking work includes the discovery that signals from tissue cells control effector immune responses, in particular combinations of stress-induced ligands and IL-15 license cytotoxic T cell to mediate tissue damage. She also identified the mechanism underlying the association between HLA-DQ8 and celiac disease. Her research group went on to develop the first-ever mouse model of celiac disease, which will allow for the testing of new vaccines and therapeutic strategies. Using this model, her team demonstrated critical roles for both Vitamin A and IL-15 in the pathogenesis of celiac disease. These findings have had profound implications not only for celiac disease but also for the fields of both autoimmunity and mucosal immunology, including the engineering of oral vaccinations and understanding how dysregulated immune responses to luminal food antigens can lead to the development of food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease. Her work has directly led to the testing of novel therapies aimed at blocking IL-15 signaling in severe cases of celiac disease.
Dr. Jabri’s seminal work has been published in dozens of high impact journals including recent papers in Nature and Science. She is the 2010 recipient of the international William. K Warren Jr. Prize for Basic Research in celiac disease and the 2017 Lloyd Mayer Mucosal Immunology Prize. Dr. Jabri is also elected member of the prestigious Association of American Physicians, and most recently a winner of the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.
Dr. Philipson is one of the leading authorities on the biophysics of insulin secretion and is a tireless advocate for patients with diabetes especially those with Type 1 diabetes and monogenic forms of diabetes. Dr. Philipson identified potassium channels (Kv) in human insulin secreting cells, elucidated their role through beta cell specific deletions, then developed models for insulin secretion. He co-discovered insulin gene mutations that cause diabetes, both neonatal and later onset. He directs the leading group in the United States studying monogenic diabetes.
Dr. Philipson began his career at the University of Chicago nearly 40 years ago when in 1976 he arrived as a doctoral student in Biochemistry (Ph.D. 1982, with Professor Nancy B. Schwartz) following undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at Harvard. In 1986 he received his MD from the Pritzker School of Medicine with honors and went on to complete his Internal Medicine residency and Endocrinology fellowship training in the Department of Medicine. In 1990, he joined the faculty and currently serves as Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics and Director of the Kovler Diabetes Center.
Throughout his career, Dr. Philipson’s work has focused on diabetes mellitus and the insulin-secreting pancreatic beta-cell, enjoying a reputation as one of the leading experts on the role of ion channels in the regulation of beta-cell function. As such, his laboratory has produced outstanding, seminal work that has provided new insights in the field of insulin secretion. His studies employing diverse techniques furthered our understanding of interlocking beta cell signaling systems involving ion channels and second messengers in pancreatic islets in normal and diabetic models. Efforts in permanent neonatal diabetes with international collaborators resulted in the discovery of a new class of insulin gene mutations causing diabetes through beta cell ER stress.
As a clinician, Dr. Philipson has impacted the manner in which clinicians and patients think about type 1 diabetes. He worked with Illinois legislature to pass “Lilly’s Law” which requires physicians and other healthcare providers in Illinois to report patients with diabetes mellitus with onset before 12 months of age to the Illinois Department of Public Health so that patients with neonatal diabetes receive genetic testing that may allow them to be treated with pills rather than insulin. He is also the principal investigator of the Chicago Diabetes TrialNet Clinical Center for studies in type 1 diabetes.
Dr. Philipson is the recipient of numerous awards including the Order of Lincoln Award, Illinois’ highest award for professional achievement and public service, and the American College of Physicians ‘Samuel Eichold II Memorial Award for Contributions in Diabetes’ Award. He currently serves as President of the Chicago/Northern Illinois Community leadership Board and is President Elect for Science and Medicine of the American Diabetes Association.
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