Frontiers in Diabetes Research

The Frontiers in Diabetes Research Symposium held at the Berrie Center each November for the past 22 years, has gathered more than 2,500 physicians, scientists, students, fellows, faculty and other diabetes professionals from 70 institutions in a spirit of collaboration and discovery. Over the years, more than 100 speakers from 50 institutions have given lectures on topics ranging from the immunobiology of type 1 diabetes to trends in stem cell research, molecular genetics of diabetes, the biology of the beta cell, and more.

Each year, the recipients of the Naomi Berrie Awards for Achievement in Diabetes Research are announced at the Frontiers Symposium. The Berrie Awards have provided critical seed funding to more than 30 of the world’s most promising diabetes researchers. One award supports a two-year fellowship for a diabetes researcher at Columbia University. To promote collaboration with other organizations and scientists, a second, extramural award is granted to an established scientist who has accomplished outstanding achievement in research related to diabetes. This award is made in support of a two-year fellowship for a post-doctoral student to continue an aspect of his or her research. Through the continued generosity of the Russell Berrie Foundation, a third award, known as the Berrie Scholar Award, was added in 2013.  

Designed to accomplish three goals—foster the training of young scientists, recognize the outstanding contributions and achievements of senior scientists, and advance the field of research for a cure for diabetes—the Berrie Awards and Frontier Symposium have been emulated by universities across the country. 

The 2021 Frontiers in Diabetes Research Symposium was held on Saturday, November 20, 2021 via Zoom. Titled Neural Control of Metabolic Homeostasis, this conference united research scientists, clinicians, and students with an interest in diabetes and obesity. The conference focused on recent basic and clinical insights regarding bidirectional crosstalk between the brain and peripheral tissues integral to maintaining body weight, glucose and lipid homeostasis. Particular emphasis was placed on the interactions – and potential genetic mechanistic links – relating to susceptibility to development of obesity, diabetes and related dyslipidemias. Additional areas of focus included novel potential approaches to the treatment of these metabolic diseases. Columbia University awarded the 2021 Naomi Berrie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research to Barbara B.  Kahn, MD. Dr. Kahn, who is the George R. Minot Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, was recognized for her work on “molecules secreted from fat that mediate systemic insulin resistance.

The 2020 Frontiers in Diabetes Research Symposium was held on Saturday, November 21, 2020 via Zoom. Titled Obesity, Diabetes & COVID 19: Elucidating Biodirectional Links, this conference brought together physicians, scientists and students from around the world at a critical time. The conference focused on clinical and basic insights regarding SARS-CoV2 infection. Particular emphasis was placed on the potential metabolic/genetic and demographic links to susceptibility and clinical outcomes in patients with obesity and pre-existing diabetes. Additional areas of focus included novel treatment paradigms for diabetes in the COVID-19 era, and a look forward towards novel antiviral therapies. Columbia University awarded the 2020 Naomi Berrie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research to Steven Kahn, M.D., Leonard L. Wright and Marjorie C. Wright Chair; Professor, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Nutrition; DirectorDiabetes Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. 

The 2019 Frontiers in Diabetes Research Symposium, celebrating its 21st year, took place on Saturday, November 16th. Columbia University awarded the 2019 Naomi Berrie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research to Alvin C. Powers, MD, the Joe C. David Chair in Biomedical Science, Medicine, and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics; Professor, Vanderbuilt Diabetes Center, Director, Division of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Vanderbuilt School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Powers is a physician-scientist whose research has focused on pancreatic islets, which contain cells that secrete insulin and glucagon to regulate blood sugar levels. In particular his work has uncovered the steps involved in connecting islets to the blood vessels and nerve fibers necessary for proper functioning of the cells. Dr. Powers’ lab has made critical discoveries in understanding how dysfunction of pancreatic islets leads to the development of all forms of diabetes and it is developing therapies to reverse islet abnormalities.

The 2018 Frontiers in Diabetes Research Symposium, celebrating its 20th year, took place on Saturday, November 17th. Columbia University awarded the 2018 Naomi Berrie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research to David M. Nathan, MD, Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. 

The 2017 Frontiers in Diabetes Research Symposium, celebrating its 19th year, took place on Saturday, November 18th. Bradford B. Lowell, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was awarded the Berrie Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Diabetes Research. Dr. Lowell is an innovator in creating cutting-edge genetic engineering and neuroscience techniques to study energy balance and obesity. Dr. Lowell was recognized along with other award winners in a ceremony at the Frontiers in Diabetes Conference held at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center last weekend. The Prize is Columbia University's top honor for excellence in diabetes research. Amelia M. Douglass, PhD and Junjie Yu, PhD were awarded the 2017 Berrie Frontiers Fellowship. Dr. Douglass received her PhD from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Munich, Germany, and a bachelor’s degree in developmental neurobiology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. In the Lowell Lab, Dr. Douglass will use optogenetics, chemogenetics, cell-specific neuron-mapping techniques, and in vivo calcium-based imaging to understand the neuronal feedback and feedforward circuits associated with hunger. Dr. Yu completed her PhD at the Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences at Shandong Normal University, China. Working in the lab of Utpal Pajvani, MD, PhD, Dr. Yu investigates how inhibiting components of the Notch signaling pathway can simultaneously improve obesity-induced type 2 diabetes and a liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Mohsen Khosravi Maharlooei PhD, is the Russell Berrie Foundation Scholars for 2017.

Past Frontiers Symposia topics have included:

  • Neural Control of Metabolic Homeostasis - November 20, 2021 
  • Obesity, Diabetes & COVID 19: Elucidating Biodirectional Links - November 21, 2020
  • Leveraging Technical Innovation for Current and Future Care of the Diabetic Patient - November 16, 2019
  • The Biological Bases of Complications of Diabetes - November 17, 2018  
  • Advances and Challenges in the Neuroscience of Ingestive Behaviors - November 18, 2017
  • Biology of the Adipocyte: Causes and Effects in Diabetes and Obesity - November 19, 2016
  • Can Diabetes Be Cured? - November 14, 2015
  • Next Wave Science in Diabetes and Obesity - November 24, 2014
  • Emerging Insights into the Pathogenesis and Treatment of "Diabesity” - November 16, 2013
  • Immunobiology of Type 1 Diabetes – November 17, 2012
  • Brain Regulation of Energy and Glucose Homeostasis – November 19, 2011
  • Cardiovascular Consequences of Diabetes: the Role(s) of Inflammation – November 20, 2010
  • Biology of the Beta Cell – November 14, 2009
  • Adipocyte Biology in Obesity and Diabetes – November 15, 2008
  • Molecular Genetics of Diabetes and Obesity – November 3, 2007
  • Molecular Mediators of Metabolic Homeostasis – November 4, 2006
  • Molecular Pathophysiology of the Complications of Diabetes – November 5, 2005
  • Trends in Stem Cell Research: Focus on Diabetes – November 6, 2004
  • Physiology of Diabetes in Rodents and Humans – November 1, 2003
  • Molecular Physiology of Body Weight Regulation – November 2, 2002
  • Molecular Genetics of Diabetes – November 10, 2001
  • Control of Glucose Homeostasis – November 18, 2000
  • Biology of Diabetes – November 12, 1999

As of 2021, there have been 36 Berrie Award recipients, 17 of whom were selected from institutions outside Columbia University, including:

Past Recipients of the Naomi Berrie Awards for Achievement in Diabetes Research:


  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Award: Marko Kraljevic, PhD (Emiliano Lab) Sympathetic inhibition after sleeve gastrectomy: the role of surgery-induced degeneration of the celiac ganglia and its metabolic benefits.
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Yoshinaga Kawano, MD, PhD; Yoshinobu Saito, PhD; Gi Li, PhD, Nina Suda, MD


  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Award: Chloe Berland (Ferrante Lab) Signals that defend against weight gain
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Faris M. Zuraikat (St-Onge Lab) Circadian misalignment and susceptibility to large food portions: Potential mechanisms underlying obesity and diabetes risk in night-shift workers; Tianhong Su (Yan Lab) Enteroendocrine cells in health and disease
  • Berrie NYC Fellows: Jody Ye (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, mentor: Yaron Tomer) Is CTSH a key target to modulate beta-cell function and type 1 diabetes development


  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Award: Zhongji Dong (Doege Lab) A molecular basis for the association of obesity and Alzheimer’s Disease; Xun Wu (Zhang Lab) Discovering Wdfy3 as a novel regulator of macrophage efferocytosis by genome-wide CRISPR screen
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Wendy McKimpson (Accili Lab) Foxo1-expressing cells in the gut as a diabetes treatment; Qianfen Wan (Qiang Lab) Posttranslational modification code of PPARγ determines its selective transcriptional output
  • Berrie NYC Fellows: Debapriya Basu (New York University School of Medicine, mentor: Ira Goldberg) Role of Macrophage Lipoprotein Lipase in Diabetic Atherosclerosis


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Bradford B. Lowell, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Amelia M Douglass, PhD and Junjie Yu, PhD
  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Award: Mohsen Khosravi Maharlooei, MD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Peter Arner, MD, PhD, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Karolinska Institute
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Hui Gao, PhD and Kristin McCabe, PhD
  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Awards: Taiyi Kuo, PhD, Yann Ravussin, PhD, and Lina Sui, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Robert Stanley Sherwin, MD, professor of endocrinology at the Yale School of Medicine
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Jorge Postigo, PhD
  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Awards: Michael Kraakman, PhD of New Zealand and Ze Zheng, MD, PhD of China


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winners: Andrew Hattersley, DM, Fellow: Elisa De Franco, PhD, and Mark McCarthy, MD, Fellow: Nicola Beer, MPhil
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Alberto Bartolomé, PhD and Roxanne Dutia, PhD
  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Award: Maria Caterina De Rosa, of Italy, and Rim Hassouna, PhD, of France


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Phillip Scherer, PhD, University of Texas, Fellow: Risheng Jeff Ye, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Deniz Atalayer, PhD, and Nichole Danzl, PhD, MPhil
  • Russell Berrie Foundation Scholar Award: Luis Arnes, PhD, of Spain, and Enrico Bertaggia, PhD, of Italy


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winners: Diane Mathis, PhD & Christophe Benoist, MD, PhD, Harvard University, Fellow: Di Wang, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Hongxia Ren, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Barry Levin, MD, UMDNJ, Fellow: Louise Larsen, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Kazuhisa Watanabe, PhD 


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Gokhan Hotamisligil, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health, Fellow: Suneng Fu, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Rebecca Haeusler, PhD 


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Richard Bergman, PhD, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Fellow: Josiane Broussard, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Elizabeth Watson, PhD 


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard University, Fellow: Srikripa Devarakonda, PhD 
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Hua Lin, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Gerald Shulman, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine, Fellow: Francois Jornayvaz, MD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Teresa Mastracci, PhD 


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Stephen M. Schwartz, PhD, University of Washington, Fellow: Gregory Morton, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Vidya Subramanian, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Michael Brownlee, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Fellow: Dachun Yao, MD, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Lori Zeltser, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Douglas Melton, PhD, Harvard University, Fellow: Rene Maehr, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: James Love, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: George Eisenbarth, PhD, University of Colorado, Fellow: Roberto Gianani, MD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Piotr Witkowski, MD, PhD 


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Clifton Bogardus, MD, UC Irvine, Fellow: Aniello Infante, MS
  • Columbia Berrie Fellows: Wendy K. Chung, MD, PhD and Nilufar Inamdar, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: C. Ronald Kahn, MD, Joslin Diabetes Center, Fellow: Stephane Gesta, PhD
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Marta Hribal, PhD


  • Extramural Berrie Award Winner: Graeme Bell, PhD, University of Chicago, Fellow: Manami Hara, DDS, PhD 
  • Columbia Berrie Fellow: Anthony W. Ferrante, MD, PhD 

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