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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 07 | April 5, 2001

UBC attracts leading diabetes researcher

Donor's $2.5-million gift to fund cutting-edge research

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

An alternative to pancreas transplant -- until now only available in Alberta -- will be an option for B.C. diabetes patients within two years, thanks to a $2.5-million gift to the university that will support the work of a leading diabetes researcher and surgeon.

Dr. Garth Warnock, the first diabetes researcher in Canada to successfully transplant healthy insulin-producing cells into a diabetic patient, is coming to UBC to expand his investigative and clinical work with support from the newly established Irving K. Barber Diabetes Research Fund.

"This remarkable gift allows us to consolidate scientific leadership in diabetes research here in B.C.," says UBC President Martha Piper. "By strengthening our capacity in this area, we expect to attract additional outstanding investigators to the university."

Warnock, a recognized world leader in diabetes research, will join the Faculty of Medicine in June as head of the Dept. of Surgery at UBC and Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre. Annual income from the Barber fund will support the development of his laboratory which has potential to become a world class centre of diabetes research.

Recruiting outstanding faculty and providing for their research support is a key strategy in Trek 2000, the university's vision document.

"My motivation in providing this gift is to help create an environment at UBC where new knowledge on diabetes will be generated and made available to the medical community in B.C. I also hope that this will be one small step to reversing the so-called brain drain our province has been experiencing," says Barber, a UBC alumnus and leading B.C. entrepreneur.

Warnock will bring a strong vision to diabetes research in B.C. -- his approaches offer less invasive and less expensive alternatives for individuals with this disease, adds UBC's dean of Medicine Dr. John Cairns.

Director of the Division of Surgical Research at University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, Warnock led the clinical islet transplant program at the University of Alberta.

In 1989 program researchers performed Canada's first islet cell transplant -- isolating healthy clusters of insulin-producing cells or islets from the pancreas and transplanting them into a diabetic patient. The procedure can be done by injection and would be an alternative to pancreas transplant for many patients.

Warnock was also the attending surgeon for the first patient in the world to live insulin-free more than two years following islet cell transplantation.

"I am excited to join diabetes researchers in B.C.," Says Warnock, currently a professor of Surgery and chief of General Surgery at the University of Alberta. "I am confident that by concentrating our efforts we can make a significant contribution to diabetes care in this province and in Canada."

Diabetes, which affects more than two million Canadians, is caused by insufficient secretion of insulin by the pancreas. There were eight pancreas transplants in B.C. last year.

Warnock, who as department head will assume the C.N. Woodward Chair in Surgery, also has clinical interests in surgical issues related to endocrine, pancreatic, gastro-intestinal disease and surgical breast diseases. An accomplished instructor, he has earned many honours for teaching excellence in clinical surgery.

Warnock succeeds Dr. Richard Finley who was head of the Dept. of Surgery for 12 years.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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