NIH News Release
National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Monday, November 15, 1999
Anne Thomas (301) 496-5787
Elizabeth Singer (301) 496-3583

Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., Named Director of NIDDK

Harold Varmus, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced the appointment of Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., as Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the leading federal agency supporting research in diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases and nutrition; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. The appointment is effective November 15, 1999.

"I am very pleased that Allen Spiegel, one of the nation's most distinguished medical scientists, will be assuming leadership of NIDDK. NIDDK is responsible for addressing some of the most important chronic and seemingly intractable diseases facing us today," said Dr. Varmus in announcing the appointment. "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. Spiegel is an internationally recognized endocrinologist whose research on signal transduction has helped to 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. Dr. 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.

Dr. Spiegel has also participated in a collaborative effort with colleagues in NIDDK and the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH 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," Dr. Spiegel says.

Dr. Spiegel comes to the directorship of NIDDK from his position as Scientific Director of NIDDK. For the past nine years, in addition to an active research career, he has led one of the largest and most productive intramural research programs on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Spiegel guided 21 different 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.

Dr. Spiegel says that 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."

As the new director of NIDDK, Dr. Spiegel will oversee a staff of 900 employees and an annual budget of $1 billion. The Institute supports research by investigators in medical centers, universities and laboratories throughout the United States. The 3,000 grantees of NIDDK are contributing to advances in the understanding and treatment of diabetes, cystic fibrosis, hormone disorders and diseases, digestive diseases, obesity, basic nutrition, polycystic kidney disease, end stage renal disease, kidney stones, interstitial cystitis, prostate disease, and blood disorders. In addition, NIDDK conducts both basic and clinical research at its facilities in Bethesda, Maryland and Phoenix, Arizona.

After graduating cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1971, Spiegel completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. 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 eight years later. In 1988, he was promoted to branch chief. Spiegel has received numerous awards in recognition of his accomplishments, 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.