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Spiegel Named Director of NIDDK

Dr. Allen M. Spiegel was named new director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases on Nov. 15, succeeding Dr. Phillip Gorden (see story).

"I am very pleased that Allen Spiegel, one of the nation's most distinguished medical scientists, will be assuming leadership of NIDDK," said NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus, who made the appointment. "NIDDK is responsible for addressing some of the most important chronic and seemingly intractable diseases facing us today. With advanced understanding of the genetic underpinning of disease at the cellular level, Allen and the institute are well positioned to dramatically affect the prevention and treatment of many diseases."

Dr. Allen M. Spiegel

Spiegel, who has been scientific director at NIDDK for the past 9 years, is an internationally recognized endocrinologist whose research on signal transduction has helped define the genetic basis of several endocrine diseases. His research established that inherited disease can be caused by defects in G proteins, which serve as intermediaries between hormone receptors and effectors. Spiegel and colleagues at NIH have identified mutations in G proteins that result in defective cell-signalling and cause inherited disorders such as pseudohypoparathyroidism type Ia and McCune-Albright syndrome. He and his colleagues have also identified and studied mutations in G protein-coupled receptors that lead to either hormone resistance in diseases such as nephrogenic diabetes insipidus or endocrine hyperfunction in diseases such as familial male precocious puberty. His current studies on a G protein-coupled calcium-sensing receptor may enable researchers to target treatment for hyperparathyroidism and other disorders involving this receptor.

Spiegel has also participated in a collaborative effort with colleagues in NIDDK and the National Human Genome Research Institute to clone the tumor suppressor gene which, when mutated, causes the inherited disease multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1), as well as a number of sporadic endocrine and other tumors. The collaborative group is now studying the structure and function of the MEN 1 gene and its encoded protein, menin.

"Throughout my career, I have tried to forge strong links between fundamental science and clinical medicine. Now, I am enthusiastic about being able to do this on a larger scale," Spiegel said.

As NIDDK scientific director, Spiegel guided 21 laboratories and branches that study diabetes, metabolic diseases, sickle cell anemia and other red blood cell disorders, endocrinology, hepatitis B and C, genetics, biochemistry, molecular, cellular, developmental and structural biology. He has recently established a new branch to study pathogenesis of type 1 diabetes and to test new treatments to allow kidney and pancreatic islet transplantation in patients without use of global immunosuppressive agents.

He says NIDDK must continue its strong support for basic science because it offers "the best promise for discovering new knowledge relevant to human disease." At the same time, he adds, "We must vigorously support efforts to apply this new knowledge so that it reaches patients afflicted with the many serious disorders NIDDK studies, and measurably improves their and their families' lives."

After graduating cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1971, Spiegel completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He came to NIDDK's Endocrinology Research Training Program in 1973 under the mentorship of the late Dr. Gerald Aurbach and became a senior investigator in the Metabolic Diseases Branch and chief of the section of molecular pathophysiology 8 years later. In 1988, he was promoted to branch chief. Spiegel has received numerous awards, most recently the 1998 Edwin B. Astwood Lecture Award from the Endocrine Society and the 1996 Komrower Memorial Lecture Award from the Society for the Study of Inborn Errors of Metabolism.

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