UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 07 | April
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.
Warnock will bring a strong vision to diabetes research in
B.C. -- his
approaches offer less invasive and less expensive alternatives for
with this disease, adds UBC's dean of Medicine Dr. John Cairns.
Director of the Division of Surgical Research at University of
in Edmonton, Warnock led the clinical islet transplant program at
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
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
Warnock succeeds Dr. Richard Finley who was head of the Dept. of Surgery for 12