6/15/2017
Clinical Profile of James Pring:
The Sawdust Scientist

“If Clark Kent decided to retire, you wouldn’t just hire one person to replace him,” said the affable James Pring, who recently joined the staff of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center to take over some of the responsibilities left behind by recent retiree Patricia Kringas. Pat headed up the type 2 diabetes (T2D) clinical research team at the Berrie Center for 17 years. 

James will be the new clinical research coordinator for the GRADE Study, which stands for Glycemia Reduction Approaches in Diabetes: A Comparative Effectiveness Study. Launched in 2014 by the National Institute of Health, the GRADE Study is a long-term, multi-center, research study that compares the effectiveness of four FDA-approved drugs that are commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes in combination with metformin, the first-line treatment for T2D. The purpose of the study is to determine which one of the four, each from a different class of drugs, works best.

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“There’s something particularly rewarding about doing work that is going to help a number of people,” said James about the GRADE Study, which has a goal of setting a new, national standard for the treatment of T2D. “I am proud to be a part of such a critical, public health study.”

Prior to the Berrie Center, James, who has a Bachelors degree from the University of Exeter in Cellular and Molecular Biology, was a Research Specialist at Rockefeller University where he was the manager of core processing in the laboratory of Ralph Steinman, MD. There, the clinical studies were mainly HIV related. (James was witness to history when Dr. Steinman won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, three days after he died of pancreatic cancer. “ ‘The best job you’ll ever have’ was the unofficial motto in his lab,” said James.)  

At Rockefeller, James oversaw the processing, archiving and distribution of patient specimens to other labs, drug companies or clinical sponsors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was involved in eight different clinical studies in six years.

“The thing I was always commended on,” said James, "was my knowledge of not just the science, but the compliance and ensuring that the minutia of paperwork and other tasks that come with clinical research studies are completed. It’s all about optimizing the amount of work that’s possible to do within a set amount of time. That is something I have always shown a great deal of aptitude for.”

James grew up in a village called Taunton in the rolling green hills of Somerset County in southwest England—“where Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings… where King Arthur did his kinging and the Lady of the Lake did her laking,” he smiled.

“I always wanted to do science since the time I knew what science was,” said James. “I was fascinated from a very young age by the world around us. In terms of biology, I just got it. I’d like to say it was entirely hard work on my part, but it wasn’t.”

In his free time, James is a woodworker who used to earn a living making custom furniture under the name of the “Sawdust Scientist.” About woodworking, said James, “I genuinely love it. I find it very restful. There’s almost a meditative quality to it.” 

“I’m confident that James will shine in his new role,” said Robin Goland, MD, Co-Director of the Berrie Center and the J. Merrill Eastman Professor of Clinical Diabetes at Columbia. “He has a quick wit and a mind to match. We’re lucky to have him.”

James lives in Rye Brook, NY with his wife and daughter.