Diabetes Research Director & Leadership

Message From the Director

Jacob E. (Jed) Friedman, Ph.D.,
Director, OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center

Welcome to Harold Hamm Diabetes Center.

Since 2019, it has been my privilege to lead Harold Hamm Diabetes Center and continue its development as one of the few comprehensive diabetes centers of its kind in the nation. Here, we integrate top-flight academic research with clinical care and disease prevention. I am very grateful to continue to honor the philanthropic gift and the legacy created by Mr. Harold Hamm. Our Mission is to improve patient outcomes and reduce the burden of diabetes in Oklahoma and the nation. We are relentless in our commitment to discover a cure for diabetes that will end the diabetes pandemic in the 21st century.

Currently, one in eight Oklahomans have Type 2 diabetes, and one-third of the state’s adult population has pre-diabetes and are completely unaware of their precarious condition. Tragically, Oklahoma’s Native Americans have over twice the risk of developing diabetes and are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes or its complications, including cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease and cancer.

What is the new vision for the HHDC?

Our Vision is to help children, adults and their families live healthier lives without diabetes and its consequences. The face of diabetes has undergone striking changes over several decades. Epidemiology research has shown that Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are increasing worldwide, and the disease spans the spectrum of age, race and ethnicity. We have witnessed striking increases in Native American youth as never before. In addition, the obesity epidemic has changed the phenotype of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Alarmingly, one in 10 infants and toddlers are already obese, and one in five youth are both obese and at risk for diabetes, prompting predictions that one in three infants born in 2020 may develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Can we identify factors responsible for these changes to slow the diabetes and obesity epidemic?

Members of HHDC faculty have begun to uncover some of the most important physiological processes underlying risk for childhood obesity and diabetes during the first 1,000 days. The first 1,000 days, from conception through early childhood, establish the foundation for lifelong health. It is a time when our external environments - from the food we eat to our exposures to stress and adversity - shape our future health in powerful ways. Maternal diets and excess fuel can cause long-term, subtle and irreversible changes in the development, structure and function of some tissues and vital organs that control glucose metabolism (liver, skeletal muscle, heart, pancreas, kidney, brain) as a result of disruptions in maternal metabolism. This risk is further exacerbated by excessive weight gain in postnatal/adult life.

The strong association between maternal diet and obesity/diabetes and childhood obesity and its sequelae is of particular concern, because nearly 70% of American women now enter pregnancy either overweight or obese, and up to 30% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). This creates a vicious, detrimental cycle of intrauterine transmission of metabolic disease from the mother to her children.

How will resources help build the scientific and clinical research base for HHDC and lead to a National/International Reputation?

Our Goals

  • Increase our research base and translate new knowledge into effective clinical treatments and prevention efforts to halt the obesity and diabetes epidemic and its complications.
  • Target specific goals and strategies including development of effective interventions in pre-clinical models of obesity and diabetes, combined with clinical research trials that will, in turn, potentially decrease the risk for diabetes and its complications.
  • Maintain specific focus on primary prevention of diabetes, and treatments for disorders that often accompany diabetes, including hypertension, fatty liver disease and cancer.

Strategies:

  • Conduct aggressive basic-sciences faculty recruitment in the intersection between metabolism and genetics, epigenetics, microbiome and pathophysiology, including large data integration.
  • Develop and expand clinical cohorts to identify pathways for development of disease in youth and adults at high risk for obesity and diabetes and its complications, including cancer and accelerated aging.
  • Expand use of advanced bioinformatics methods, including machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand and prevent or predict complex disease pathways from the cellular level to populations.
  • Take advantage of existing tribal navigators and federal funding to launch proposals that address the diabetes pathophysiology specifically focused on our tribal partners.
  • Train the next generation of diabetes researchers, by recruitment of successful mentors across the college of medicine and professional schools.
  • Increase commercialization opportunity in clinical-translational therapies aimed at treating diabetes and its complications across the lifespan through collaboration with bio-engineering, and take advantage of business development processes at OU-Norman.

HHDC will continue to expand its extensive collaboration with partners across the healthcare system, most notably Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma’s tribal nations, and the University of Oklahoma on both Norman and Tulsa campuses.

To all our stakeholders, we truly appreciate your support as we seek to elevate HHDC, its work and its mission. As HHDC grows stronger and gains stature as a nationally recognized biomedical research center, our resources can be deployed in new directions that optimize our search for a cure, which will end the diabetes pandemic.

Jacob E. (Jed) Friedman, Ph.D.,
Director, OU Health Harold Hamm Diabetes Center