Daniel G. Wright, MD, and Terry Rogers Bishop, PhD
Dr. Wright is Senior Scientific Advisor and Program Director for Hematology Research, DKUHD, NIDK, National Institutes of Health
Dr. Bishop is Hematology Program Director, DKUHD, NIDK, National Institutes of Health
In 2010, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Sixty years ago, the “Omnibus Medical Research Act” of 1950 established a new Institute at NIH to support basic and clinical research relevant to a broad range of medical subspecialty areas, including hematology. In the early 1950s, this new Institute, the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases (NIAMD), began to award grants for support of research on “erythrocyte production, turnover, and metabolism; erythropoietic regulation and erythropoietin; hemoglobin; iron, B12, and folate metabolism; hematopoiesis and bone marrow grafts; transplant immunology; immune-hematology; and leukocyte cell biology.” In 1972, the Institute’s name was changed to the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases (NIAMDD), and, subsequently in 1986, as NIH grew and new institutes were established, its name changed again to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. However, throughout its history, the Institute maintained its commitment to support leading-edge hematology research in areas of interest defined at the time the Institute was originally established.
During the past 60 years, the NIDDK Hematology Research Program has worked in parallel with blood diseases programs at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Heart Institute, which evolved into the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of today, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Although NIDDK’s footprint of support for hematology research has been smaller than that of NCI and NHLBI, it has been a particularly important source of support for seminal, basic hematology research that not only has advanced the understanding of blood diseases and laid foundations for improved treatment of these diseases, but also has led to advances in cell and molecular biology generally, informing current understanding of cell structure and function, genomics and proteomics, signal-response coupling in cells, regulation of gene expression and cellular development, and stem cell biology. During its history, the NIDDK Hematology Research Program has been privileged to provide long-term support for the research and training activities of a large number of distinguished academic and research leaders in hematology, including 23 ASH presidents.
ASH honored NIDDK’s 60th anniversary year at its recent 52nd annual meeting in Orlando, FL, with a special symposium. This symposium highlighted seminal advances and future opportunities for progress in three key areas of hematology research supported by NIDDK during its 60 year history: hematopoiesis, hemoglobin, and iron. The symposium was introduced by Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, ASH member and current director of NIDDK, and included talks by three distinguished NIDDK grantees: Drs. Kenneth Kaushansky, Alan N. Schechter, and Nancy C. Andrews. Read more about this symposium in the ASH News Daily article, “Inspiring at Age 60: The NIDDK Is One to Follow” (www.hematology.org/Publications/ASH-News-Daily/2010/6200.aspx), and listen to the webcast from this symposium (http://ash.eventmediasite.com).
On behalf of NIDDK, we wish to express our gratitude to ASH for its interest and enthusiasm in helping us celebrate NIDDK’s 60th anniversary. The NIDDK Hematology Research Program has been and remains an important source of research support for leading-edge basic and translational hematology research. This long-standing role tends to be overlooked by the hematology research community because (as we sometimes say in jest) the “H,” for Hematology, is silent in NIDDK.
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