March 27, 2012

Translational Research Institute Seeks Individualized Approaches to Curing Global Epidemic of Diabetes

Innovative partnership between Florida Hospital and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute will bridge research and treatment to accelerate personalized medicine in diabetes and obesity

ORLANDO, Fla., March 27, 2012

Orlando will soon be recognized as a medical destination seeking cures for diabetes, according to Florida Hospital – Sanford-Burnham researchers. “It is my professional goal to cure diabetes,” said Dr. Steven R. Smith, a diabetes expert and scientific director of the Florida Hospital – Sanford-Burnham Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI). Researchers at the TRI, an innovative partnership between Florida Hospital and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, believe that by applying the concept of personalized medicine to diabetes and obesity, the TRI can help “crack the code” on these global epidemics and provide a more individualized, tailored approach to finding cures.

Diabetes and metabolism-related diseases now affect nearly one out of every three Americans. However, the current model for treating both diabetes and obesity reflects a one-size-fits-all model of “eat less and exercise more.” Alexandra Fields-Garrity, a 27-year-old psychology student, is a twin but the few differences that exist between her and her sister have had big consequences on Fields-Garrity’s health.

“I have battled with weight issues my entire life and am now pre-diabetic,” Fields-Garrity said. “My twin sister is the complete opposite of me in terms of weight and health issues, yet we share a very close genetic make-up. I enrolled in a research trial at the TRI so my information can help the researchers understand what makes my sister and me so different.”Fields-Garrity’s story is just one example of what the research at the TRI will help to uncover.

University of California Santa BarbaraNew TRI Facility in Downtown Orlando

“One of the key goals of the research being conducted at the TRI is to broaden the basic understanding of the complex genetic and molecular causes of obesity, diabetes and associated cardiovascular complications,” said Dr. Smith. “By working with innovative industry leaders and our basic science partners at Sanford-Burnham Institute, we hope to usher in a new era of personalized approaches preventing, diagnosing and treating these diseases because we know it is people like Alex who will benefit from our discoveries.”

The TRI’s new 54,000 sq. ft. facility in Orlando, Fla., contains a variety of tools that are crucial to finding cures including a research clinic, advanced imaging technology, a biorepository for sample collection and storage, as well as several other resources for metabolic studies. One of the facility’s highlights is the Calorimetry Laboratory, which contains two “dorm” sized rooms and two small calorimeter rooms that will analyze the air in the room to measure energy expenditure and the type of food a person is burning without the person having the discomfort of being hooked up to machinery. The two small calorimeter rooms will be the first ever designed for precisely measuring energy expenditure at rest or during exercise.

“Our partnership with Florida Hospital exemplifies a new, translational research model that will speed the development of personalized therapies,” said Dr. John Reed, CEO of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. “The application of our advanced research technologies to clinical studies at the TRI has the potential to revolutionize health care through the discovery of molecular signatures of disease.”

The TRI bridges the fundamental discovery research conducted in Sanford-Burnham laboratories with clinical studies at the new TRI facility, providing a bench-to-bedside research continuum. The research will be empowered by genomics and metabolomics technology platforms at Sanford-Burnham and sophisticated resources at the TRI. The two-way information sharing is expected to accelerate discoveries and pave the way towards a personalized approach to treating metabolic diseases.

In fact, the first research advancing from Sanford-Burnham to the clinical research stage at the TRI will begin this spring. The research will focus on orexin, an appetite-inducing hormone produced in the brain, which appears to resolve obesity without changes in food consumption or elevation in physical activity.

“Advancing this study to the TRI is a crucial first step in translating fundamental research at Sanford-Burnham to the clinical phase,” said Dr. Smith. “The infrastructure in the new TRI facility has a variety of assets that are essential to this type of bench-to-bedside research.”

Every year, diabetes and metabolic diseases cost Central Floridians more than $4 billon and nationally generate approximately $174 billion in direct and indirect costs, according to the American Diabetes Association. By linking the largest healthcare provider in Central Florida with a nationally renowned research institute, the TRI seeks to bridge the gap between the research bench and the patient’s bedside to help find cures faster.

“The TRI’s focus is a natural extension of Florida Hospital’s overall focus on holistic, healthy living combined with world-class patient care,” said Lars Houmann, president and CEO of Florida Hospital. “The new TRI facility represents another step forward in Orlando becoming a major medical destination and marks a major initiative in patient oriented research. The type of research that will be done at the TRI will change how physicians treat diabetes and obesity by creating more personalized therapies. This is a really exciting approach.”.

About Florida Hospital

Opened in 1908, Florida Hospital is a faith-based institution focused on providing whole person care. It is one of the largest not-for-profit hospitals in the country, caring for more than a million patient visits per year – more than any other hospital in the country, according to the American Hospital Association. The more than 2,000-bed system is comprised of eight hospitals, including the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children, 30 outpatient facilities and 20 Centra Care locations throughout Central Florida. Florida Hospital provides a wide range of health services, including many nationally and internationally recognized programs in cardiology, cancer, women’s medicine, neurosciences, diabetes, orthopedics, pediatrics and advanced surgical programs. Florida Hospital is a designated statutory teaching hospital and also trains physicians from all around the world on the newest technologies. For more information, please visit

About The Florida Hospital – Sanford-Burnham Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes

The Florida Hospital – Sanford-Burnham Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI) is the product of an innovative affiliation between Florida Hospital and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona. By linking the largest not-for-profit hospital in the country with a nationally renowned basic science leader, the TRI bridges the gap between the research bench and the patient’s bedside. The mission of the TRI is to extend and improve the quality of lives through the translation of fundamental scientific discoveries to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. For additional information, please visit

About Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) is an independent nonprofit research organization that blends cutting-edge fundamental research with robust drug discovery to address unmet clinical needs in the areas of cancer, neuroscience, immunity, and metabolic disorders. The Institute invests in talent, technology, and partnerships to accelerate the translation of laboratory discoveries that will have the greatest impact on patients. Recognized for its world-class NCI-designated Cancer Center and the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, SBP employs more than 1,100 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

SBP can also be found on Facebook at and on Twitter @SBPdiscovery.

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