Aaron Vinik, MD, PhD, FCP, MACP, FACE
Director of Research and the Neuroendocrine Unit
Murray Waitzer Endowed Chair for Diabetes Research
Dr. Vinik is a national leader in basic and clinical neuropathy. He, in essence, has defined the heterogeneity of neuropathy, established a need for a modular approach depending on the particular nerve fiber damaged, and pioneered studies on the relationship between neuropathy, autoimmunity, and cell toxicity. He also pioneered the use of immunotherapy for autoimmune diabetic neuropathy. He has championed the evaluation of autonomic neuropathy as well as the identification of the site of pathology of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, using contact heat evoked potential stimulation (CHEPS). His advances in the understanding of neuropathy have resulted in patient treatment referrals from all parts of the United States and many other countries. He has been listed amongst the best physicians in the USA for the past nine years.
Dr. Vinik brought international recognition to Virginia as a result of his research on islet regeneration and the discovery of a gene, which could prove to be a cure for diabetes. The gene, INGAP (islet neogenesis associated protein) is responsible, either alone or in combination with other factors, for stimulating immature cells in the diabetic pancreas to produce insulin. When INGAP protein was administered to diabetic hamsters it was shown to reverse diabetes in 40% to 50% of animals. Animal studies were followed by human, multi-center clinical studies in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, carried out by some of the most highly recognized investigators in the country; the results showed that even in type 1 diabetes an increase in C- peptide, (a measure of islet function), could be induced after 3 months of treatment. In type 2 diabetes, INGAP was able to stimulate an increase in C peptide and reduce HbA1c levels by close to 1%. Phase 2 clinical trials were recently completed as multiple-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to assess the safety, and efficacy of a new formulation of INGAP peptide given subcutaneously as injections for 12 weeks in adult patients with Type 1 diabetes, who have been treated with insulin for greater than 2 years and who are otherwise in good general health. Another ongoing clinical trial is currently being held at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.
The discovery of INGAP has far reaching implications: it could free the two million people with type I diabetes from daily injections of insulin; it could help the 20 million people with type 2 diabetes whose pancreas ultimately fails; and, it could be used in genetic screening to identify those predisposed for developing diabetes. The discovery is a result of 16 years of perseverance, committed to the belief (thought by many to be heretical) that islets could be made to grow.
Dr. Vinik has been invited to present his work all over the world. Recognized as a pioneer and a scholar, Dr. Vinik has authored eight books, one devoted to islet regeneration, 116 book chapters, and has published more than 460 papers in peer-reviewed, highly reputable journals. He has also published more than 400 abstracts and he and the fellows he has trained have presented scientific papers at innumerable national and international meetings. He has been invited to give the Banting Lecture at the University of Toronto, the Minkowski Lecture in Kaunas, Lithuania, and the "INGAP Story" in Helsingør, Denmark at the International Pancreatic Islet Symposium. He has been "Meet the Professor" at the Endocrine Society, American Diabetes Association, and American College of Physicians. Dr. Vinik received the award for the Virginia Outstanding Scientist by the Science Museum of VA, in 2002 and the Southern Medical Association’s Seale Harris Award in 2003. He received the Dean's Award for Outstanding Research in 1993 and the Dean's Award for Outstanding Faculty in 1999. He was awarded Alpha Omega Alpha in 2004 by students of EVMS. In 2005, he was elected to Mastership of the American College of Physicians.
He is a member of a number of professional societies including the American Endocrine, Diabetes, Gastroenterology, and the European and International Diabetes associations. Dr. Vinik served as a member of the National Institute of Health General Clinical Research Center Study Section and the NIH Data Management committee. He was also Chairman of the American Diabetes Association task force on Nutrition, which established the guidelines for nutritional management of diabetes, and Chairman of the subcommittee for development of guidelines for neuropathy testing; in addition, he was a member of the committee to develop guidelines for managing lipid disorders in diabetes. He has served previously as Chairperson of the American Diabetes Association Grant Review Committee and as Director of the National Post-Graduate Education Course.
Dr. Vinik’s scholarly pursuits include reviewing scientific manuscripts for various journals. He is Editor of Endocrine Reviews and Associate Editor of Diabetes Care; He is also an editor of several books, such as Neuroendocrine Tumors from Interscience Institute; editor of the section on Neuroendocrine Tumors in DeGroot’s textbook of Endocrinology; of the section on Neuroendocrine Tumors in the textbook, Cancer Medicine, and co-editor of the textbook, Controversies in Treating Diabetes. Dr Vinik is a featured speaker on diabetic neuropathy in the television series, D-Life, which presents education programs on diabetes to the public.
He has received research funding for his studies from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Aging, the Kroc Foundation, the American Diabetes Association, HUD, DHHS, NASA, The Diabetes Institutes Foundation, and pharmaceutical industries.
Dr. Vinik holds three issued patents and six more patents are being studied. He holds the copyright for the Norfolk Quality of Life tool, used as an end-point for clinical trials in neuropathy for assessing lifestyle problems in patients with diabetic neuropathy. He also holds the copyright for the questionnaire for assessing Quality of Life in patients with neuroendocrine tumors.