Our speakers

We are proud to present to you our speakers, representing a selection of the leading experts at the absolute forefront of the field of diabetes.

Session 1  150-year anniversary of the discovery of pancreatic islets - New horizons

Session 2  Type 2 diabetes – New paradigms in pathobiology and treatment

Session 3  Technical applications for the advances of diabetes

Session 4  How do we form societies preventing diabetes?

Patrick MacDonald, University of Alberta (CA)

Patrick MacDonald, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Alberta, Canada, focuses his research on function and dysfunction of pancreatic endocrine cells in human health and diabetes. Professor MacDonald's research has spanned areas that include biophysical characterization of ion channels; intracellular signal transduction and exocytosis; and the cellular regulation of glucagon secretion. With international collaborators, some exciting new directions include islet-cell phenotyping by combined patch-clamp and single-cell sequencing; and computational modelling of human islet cell profiles.

Professor MacDonald also runs an in-house human islet isolation, banking, and distribution program called IsletCore. His techniques are mostly cell-based, and include: hormone secretion assays; single cell patch-clamp electrophysiology; and cellular imaging applied to human islets and transgenic animal models.

More information  Patrick MacDonald, University of Alberta

Bryndis Birnir, Uppsala University

Bryndis Birnir, professor in molecular physiology, focus her research on understanding how to understand the physiological role that extrasynaptic GABA channels have in neurons, pancreatic islets and lymphocytes where the channels may generate tonic neuronal inhibition, modulate hormone secretion and lymphocyte proliferation, respectively.

Bryndis Birnir further study how physiological factors such as the submicroM GABA concentrations, metabolic hormones and medicines affect these channels. The results are relevant in health but also for a number of maladies including diabetes (type 1 and 2), MS, Alzheimer disease, dementia, epilepsy and psychiatric diseases.

More information  Bryndis Birnir, Uppsala University

Olof Idevall, Uppsala University (SE)

Olof Idevall’s laboratory use quantitative live cell imaging and optogenetics to understand signaling underlying beta cell function in both health and diabetes. Olof Idevall’s current research is focussed on the role of signaling lipids as regulators of insulin secretion and on the role of physical contacts between cellular organelles as putative reaction centers that control organelle functions.

Olof Idevall’s scientific methods include techniques such as total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and spinning disc confocal microscopy, as well as a number of self-developed biosensors and molecular actuators.

More information  Olof Idevall, Uppsala University

Alejandro Caicedo, University of Miami (USA)

Professor Alejandro Caicedo, originally trained in sensory neurobiology, started working in the field of pancreatic islet biology in 2005. Now at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Caicedo is investigating the physiology of the pancreatic islet of Langerhans. Professor Caicedo’s laboratory focuses on creating new experimental models to advance knowledge beyond its current limits. A major goal is to understand how hormone secretion from the pancreatic islet is orchestrated to regulate glucose homeostasis.

Alejandro Caicedo’s recent focus has been to figure out how the islet is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. In order to investigate islets in the organism, Caicedo’s research team have developed novel techniques to visualize islet structure and function in vivo. Armed with these tools, Caicedo’s findings are changing current models about autonomic and paracrine control of insulin secretion and will contribute to our understanding of how islet function fails during the natural history of diabetes.

More information  Alejandro Caicedo, University of Miami

Gustaf Christoffersson, Uppsala University (SE)

Gustaf Christoffersson’s current research is focused on understanding how the autoreactive immune response during onset of type 1 diabetes is regulated. Christoffersson has developed a method for literally in close-up and in real-time being able to study what is happening around the beta cells when the immune system is activated. With advanced microscopes, these events can be seen in three-dimensional films; how immune cells interact with each other and with the beta cells.

Gustaf Christoffersson now aim to map the new mechanisms for how the immune system can be controlled in type 1 diabetes that he has discovered in his research. Christoffersson is also aiming to define how aggressive immune cells can be turned to instead prevent illness and how nerve signals can be used to suppress the immune system.

More information  Gustaf Christoffersson, Uppsala University

Olov Andersson, Karolinska Institutet (SE)

Olov Andersson’s research is aimed at identifying and characterizing compounds, signalling pathways and cellular mechanisms that can induce or increase beta-cell regeneration, with the overarching goal of developing new therapies for diabetes. In his research Andersson is bridging developmental biology and drug discovery, using the zebrafish model to elucidate organogenesis and related mechanisms of disease.

The zebrafish model is particularly good for studying pancreatic development in vivo. The simplicity of its organ structures allows rapid analysis of cellular changes, also its embryos are amenable to efficient transgenesis and drug delivery. By using a wide range of techniques, Olov Andersson is investigating three different cellular mechanisms of beta-cell regeneration: Induction of beta-cell neogenesis, Promotion of beta-cell proliferation and Generation of ectopic insulin-producing cells.

More information  Olov Andersson, Karolinska Institutet

Frank Reimann, University of Cambridge (UK)

Frank Reimann, professor of Endocrine Signalling at the Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge, focuses his research on the physiology of gut-derived hormones. To characterize enteroendocrine cells found scattered within the intestinal epithelium he has in recent years made a number of transgenic mice in which cells expressing specific hormones are tagged by fluorescent reporters or Cre-recombinase, allowing identification and/or manipulation of these cells. Professor Reimann’s laboratory use electrophysiological and live-cell imaging techniques to identify the mechanisms underlying the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP) and other hormones, with the aim to eventually therapeutically manipulate their release for the treatment of diabetes and obesity.

Professor Reimann’s laboratory has also made mice tagging the cells expressing the receptors for some of the secreted peptides (e.g. the GLP1R, the GIPR and Rxfp4, the receptor for insulin-like peptide-5 (Insl5), which is co-secreted with GLP-1 in the distal colon). Among Professor Reimann’s major interest are the neurons labelled by this approach, which are likely of importance in the regulation of food intake by these hormones.

More information  Frank Reimann, University of Cambridge

Jan Eriksson, Uppsala University (SE)

Professor Jan Erikssons research is focused on identifying novel pharmacological and non-pharmacological principles to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes. The treatment options have gradually improved, but this very common disease carries a high risk for cardiovascular and other organ complications. Thus, there is a great need for discovery and development of additional prevention and treatment concepts. Obesity plays a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes, and professor Erikssons research focuses on adipose tissue and its interaction with other organs.

One of Jan Erikssons specific research topics is the link between inflammation, the immune system and metabolism. In this context he studies effects of immune-modulating drugs on adipose tissue metabolism, for example glucocorticoids and agents used after transplantations. Professor Eriksson  also examine other drugs that can promote diabetes development, eg antipsychotics. These investigations are performed in adipose samples from patients and healthy volunteers. Characterization of the mechanisms behind such metabolic side effects may be utilized ‘in the opposite direction’ to prevent and treat diabetes.

More information  Jan Eriksson, Uppsala University (SE)

Angela M. Valverde, Inst. of Biomedicine Alberto Sols (ES)

Dr. Angela M Valverde, Principal Investigator at IIBm Alberto Sols and part of the CIBERdem network for the study of diabetes and associated metabolic disorders, focus her research on molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance, insulin sensitivity, and diabetic complications. Dr. Valverde research group follow a variety of relevant lines, including differential therapeutic effects of single and dual agonists of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) and glucagon receptor (GCGR) in the treatment of insulin resistance associated to obesity, in particular the effects of these drugs in the liver and brown adipose tissue.

Angela M Valverde has been involved in PhD programs in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell-biology and biomedicine areas. She has supervised 10 PhD students, of which all previous PhD students have followed scientific careers and are currently working in either academia or the pharmaceutical industry.

More information  Angela M Valverde, IIBm Alberto Sols

Marcel den Hoed, Uppsala University (SE)

Marcel den Hoed aim his research at identifying and characterising causal genes for human disease, with a focus on cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Results from large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of loci that are robustly associated with the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. To enable clinics to use results from GWAS, Marcel den Hoed’s group take findings from GWAS or sequencing efforts as a starting point, and use bioinformatics approaches to predict which variants and genes are causal, and through which tissues, cell types and pathways they act. The group subsequently use zebrafish model systems for further in vivo characterisation.

In recent years, Marcel den Hoed has developed and validated such model systems for a range of human diseases, and also started screening hundreds of genes that are predicted to play a role in lipid metabolism, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart rhythm-related disorders. Results from these studies will increase understanding of the underlying causes of disease, and, in the long term, lead to new or improved ways to treat or prevent them.

More information  Marcel den Hoed, Uppsala University

Tina Vilsbøll, University of Copenhagen (DK)

Professor Tina Vilsbøll has been involved in diabetes research since 1997, and in 2004 she established the Center for Diabetes Research at Gentofte Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Denmark now part of Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen. Professor Vilsbøll's research is focused on the pathophysiology of obesity, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes (with a specific focus on insulin, glucagon and incretin hormones), regulation of appetite and food intake, and the utilisation of incretins as therapeutics. Integration of the gut in the understanding of human glucose metabolism has become a major focus in her lab over recent years.

Professor Vilsbøll is an experienced teacher and supervises several PhD and medical students conducting diabetes research. She has almost 300 scientific publications (H-index 57), several published books and book chapters. Professor Vilsbøll is a frequently invited speaker at national and international meetings. In addition to her teaching and research posts, Professor Vilsbøll is a member of numerous professional societies and committees, and referees for several international journals.

More information  Tina Vilsböll, University of Copenhagen

John Wilding, University of Liverpool (UK)

John Wilding, Professor of Medicine at the University of Liverpool, focusses his research on developing new treatments and strategies to reduce the burden of obesity-related disease. Professor Wilding has published over 300 papers, chapters and review articles related to his clinical and laboratory research interests, including clinical trials in obesity and diabetes, adipocyte biology, functional neuroimaging of appetite in obesity & endocrine disease, and studies of metabolism in obesity and diabetes.

John Wilding also leads specialist services for severe obesity at University Hospital Aintree, designated a Centre for Obesity Management by the UK and European Associations for the Study of Obesity. Professor Wilding is an Associate Editor of Diabetic Medicine and chairs the NIHR National Clinical Research Network Metabolic and Endocrine Speciality Group. He is president elect of the World Obesity Federation

More information  John Wilding, University of Liverpool

Klearchos K. Papas, University of Arizona (US)

Dr. Klearchos K. Papas, Director of the Institute for Cellular Transplantation, devotes his research to the application of engineering principles and the development of enabling technologies in the fields of cell therapy and tissue engineering with a focus on the treatment of diabetes. A major focus of Dr. Klearchos K. Papas’ current research is the successful clinical transplantation of islets or stem-cell derived β-cells to reverse diabetes without the need for immunosuppression. His work focuses on the optimization of β-cell viability and function post-transplantation by improving oxygenation.

If successfully translated into the clinic, Dr. Papas’ work in this area has the potential to have a profound impact on reducing overall costs, increasing availability, and improving short-and long-term outcomes of β-cell therapies for the treatment of diabetes while eliminating the need for immunosuppression.

More information  Klearchos Papas, University of Arizona

Diego Balboa, Helsinki University (FI)

Diego Balboa recently defended his doctoral dissertation “Human Pluripotent Stem Cells and CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing to Model Diabetes” in which he introduces a more precise model to study molecular mechanisms behind dysfunction in insulin-producing pancreatic cells, the ultimate cause of diabetes. Balboa’s novel method employs human pluripotent stem cells, which constitute a renewable source of beta-cells that can be generated by directed differentiation and used as a model to study pancreatic beta-cell development and disease in vitro.

Balboa’s research demonstrates the use of human pluripotent stem cells as a tool to investigate monogenic diabetes disease mechanisms. These cells can also be transplanted into immunocompromised mice, generating humanized models where in vivo beta-cell function can be closely evaluated in a systemic context. For this purpose, improved human pluripotent stem cell differentiation protocols to the beta-cell lineage were generated utilizing 3D suspension culture approaches. Balboa has also established novel CRISPR-Cas9-based gene editing techniques to model monogenic diabetes cases. Using these approaches, an activating mutation in STAT3 gene was found to cause neonatal diabetes by inducing pancreas endocrinogenesis prematurely. In a similar way, INS gene mutations causing proinsulin misfolding were found to impair developing beta-cell proliferation due to increased endoplasmic reticulum stress. Today, Diego Balboa is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona, Spain.

More information  Diego Balboa, Helsinki University

Olof Eriksson, Uppsala University (SE)

Olof Eriksson's laboratory is applying state-of-the-art in vivo molecular imaging techniques, e.g. Positron Emission Tomography (PET), for advancement of our understanding and management of different pathologies, in particular metabolic disease and cancer. The lab can further provide training in many aspects of radiopharmaceutical development.

Olof Eriksson's current research focuses on non-invasive imaging methodologies for assessment of beta cell-mass in diabetes and imaging markers for activated T-cells for use in immuno-oncology and in the many diseases where inflammation is an important feature. In 2018 Olof Eriksson was appointed SciLifeLab Fellow, a tenure track position with basic funding of 12 MSEK over 4 years from the Science for Life Laboratory, a government backed center for the advancement of molecular biosciences in Sweden.

More information  Olof Eriksson, Uppsala University

Roman Hovorka, University of Cambridge (UK)

Roman Hovorka, Professor in Metabolic Technology, focusses his research on developing and clinically testing artificial pancreas systems he developed. The artificial pancreas consists of a subcutaneous glucose monitor, a control algorithm, and an insulin pump and has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of subjects with type 1 diabetes, as well as with type 2 diabetes when patients are hospitalised for diabetes-related or other reasons on the general ward.

Professor Hovorka’s research builds on recent technological advances, e.g. the increasing use of insulin pumps – that improve overall glucose control and reduce the occurrence of severe hypoglycaemia – and real-time continuous glucose monitoring that enables greater understanding of glucose excursions, provides low and high glucose alarms, and facilitates more responsive insulin dose adjustments.

More information  Roman Hovorka, University of Cambridge

Robin Strand, Uppsala University (SE)

Robin Strand, Professor in Computerized Image Analysis and head of Uppsala University’s Division of Visual Information and Interaction, focusses his research on developing interactive methods and methods for large-scale analysis in medical imaging. This analysis requires accurate segmentation of the image, and Center for Image Analysis at the Department of Information Technology at Uppsala University has developed powerful new methods for interactive image segmentation. In a current project, Professor Strand seek to employ these methods for segmentation of medical images in collaboration with the Department of Surgical Sciences at the Uppsala University Hospital.

Robin Strand also played a vital part in developing for example Imiomics, a tool for large scale  medical volume image processing, and the interactive segmentation tool SmartPaint. The SmartPaint software is publicly available for free download, and has to date been downloaded more than 1100 times.

More information  Robin Strand, Uppsala University

Anna-Maria Volkmann, University College London (UK)

Dr. Anna-Maria Volkmann, UCL Research Lead for the Cities Changing Diabetes Programme, is a health psychologist and medical anthropologist with a special interest in the social and cultural components of health, wellbeing, and chronic illness. Dr. Volkmann is a methods expert on the design and application of innovative mixed-method research and has both supported and led on the development of recent studies of Type-II Diabetes, including the Vulnerability Assessments and Urban Diabetes Risk Assessments for the Cities Changing Diabetes programme. Her post-graduate research at University College London (MSc in Medical Anthropology and PhD in Health Psychology) focused on chronic and contested illnesses.

Anna-Maria Volkmann has since worked on a number of research projects and intervention studies on living with disability, improving maternal and child health, assessing health vulnerability in both indigenous and migrant/ refugee populations, as well as identifying social and cultural risk factors for non-communicable diseases.

More information  Anna-Maria Volkmann, University College London

Brent Loken, Stockholm University (SE)

Dr. Brent Loken focusses his research on sustainable food production and tropical forest ecology. Dr. Loken has for the past 20 years been a leader at all levels, being involved in creating schools, saving rainforests, working with indigenous peoples, collaborating with governments, leading international commissions and liaising with business. Dr. Loken has a drive for creating change, and argue that if we stand any chance of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement it will be because of fast moving organizations, like EAT foundation, that disrupt the status quo and show the world a better way forward.

In a recent report published in The Lancet, Dr. Brent Loken, together with ten environmental researchers, emphasized that our eating habits must be radically changed for everyone to be able to eat good, useful and environmentally friendly food – for example we need to eat no more than 14 grams of red meat a day, but twice as much vegetables as we eat today. They also concluded that a changeover is our best chance of improving public health, stabilizing the climate and preserving the planet.

More information  Brent Loken, Stockholm University (SE)

Duk-Hee Lee, Kyungpook National University (KR)

Dr. Duk-Hee Lee, Professor of Epidemiology, focusses her research on health effects of chronic low dose exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in humans, with particularly interest in the role of lipophilic chemicals stored in adipose tissue on the risk of common obesity-related diseases. Dr. Lee has published more than 200  research articles in areas of chronic disease epidemiology and environmental epidemiology.

In 2006, Duk-Hee Lee and colleagues presented groundbreaking studies showing that people with higher levels of six different POPs were more likely to have diabetes than people with low levels of POPs. In follow up studies, Dr. Lee showed the possibility that the POPs stored in fat tissue, not obesity itself, may be a key factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Lee’s work is pivotal in bringing this field of science to new levels, including successful collaborations with researchers at Uppsala University.

More information  Duk-Hee Lee, Kyungpook National University

Jonathan Cedernaes, Uppsala University (SE)

Jonathan Cedernaes research focuses on how circadian rhythms and sleep are involved in regulating human metabolism. Dr. Cedernaes’ work shows that the cellular circadian rhythms of tissues are disrupted during simulated shift work, and that this occurs in tissues that are critical for normal human metabolism, that is, in skeletal muscle and fat tissue. Dr. Cedernaes has further demonstrated that this seems to lead to tissue-specific metabolic disruption, concluding that in the longer term,  circadian rhythm and sleep disruption may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, unfavorable weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

Jonathan Cedernaes uses clinical intervention protocols to understand for example how metabolic and other gene networks are activated at specific times of the day, with specific interest in how diet and exercise can affect our daily biological rhythms across metabolic tissues.. Dr. Cedernaes also strives to find molecular targets against adverse effects of disrupted circadian rhythms. In March 2019 Jonathan Cedernaes was awarded the Göran Gustafsson Grand Prize for younger researchers. He was also recently awarded the Outstanding Early Young Investigator Award at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for Sleep Medicine (AASM) in Texas, USA.

More information Jonathan Cedernaes, Uppsala University (umbrella group Per-Ola Carlsson)