Mark Atkinson (scientist)

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Mark Atkinson
Born March 27, 1961
Dearborn, Michigan
Residence Gainesville, Florida
Nationality American
Alma mater The University of Michigan - Dearborn (B.S.), University of Florida (Ph.D.)
Known for Type 1 diabetes research / humanitarian efforts
Scientific career
Fields Medical research, pathology, type 1 diabetes, clinical trials
Institutions University of Florida College of Medicine

Mark Atkinson (born March 27, 1961) is a medical researcher best known for his contributions to research seeking to predict, prevent, and cure type 1 diabetes. He is the author of over 425 publications and is one of the world’s most cited diabetes researchers.[1]

Atkinson currently conducts research at the University of Florida College of Medicine, where he is Director for the Diabetes Institute at UF Health. He also is the Executive Director of the Network for Pancreatic Organ donors with Diabetes (nPOD).[2]

Atkinson has also been widely cited for his humanitarian contributions, particularly his efforts to improve diabetes care, management, and access to medications and supplies in developing nations.[3]

Background and education[edit]

Mark Atkinson was born and raised in southeastern Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan – Dearborn where he received a B.S. in microbiology in 1983. Atkinson next received a Ph.D. from the Department of Pathology at the University of Florida in 1987.[4]

While at the University of Florida, Atkinson studied under diabetes researcher Dr. Noel Maclaren, who became his mentor and fostered Atkinson’s interest in type 1 diabetes research. His work with Maclaren led Atkinson to develop his three goals of determining what causes type 1 diabetes, identifying a means to predict T1D, and developing a way to prevent and cure the disease.[5]

Academic career[edit]

Atkinson has been teaching and conducting research in the Department of Pathology at the University of Florida College of Medicine since 1988.[4] He is currently the American Diabetes Association Eminent Scholar for Diabetes Research and the Jeffrey Keene Family Professor at the University of Florida, as well as the Director for the Diabetes Institute at that institution.[6]

Type 1 diabetes research[edit]

Atkinson’s research activities have a broad scope, but most fall under the umbrella of preventing and curing type 1 diabetes. Specific areas of focus include disease prediction, the role of environment in the initiation of type 1 diabetes, stem cells and beta cell regeneration, pancreatic pathology, clinical trials seeking to prevent or reverse type 1 diabetes, the identification of markers of tolerance, and devising ways to instill proper immunoregulation. Atkinson has been the recipient of funding awards from entities such as the National Institutes of Health, JDRF, the American Diabetes Association, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.[2]

Research approaches[edit]

Atkinson has conducted numerous studies that take different approaches to predicting, preventing, and curing type 1 diabetes. His earliest efforts focused on the use of autoantibodies, both anti-insulin and anti-glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), for that purpose. He was also amongst the first to describe cellular immune responses against GAD in both humans and the NOD mouse model of type 1 diabetes. He has extensively utilized NOD mice as a means to identify agents that could be translated to studies seeking to prevent or reverse type 1 diabetes but at the same time, has stated that such efforts need be approached with caution.[7] His publication in the journal Nature Medicine noting the nearly 200 ways to prevent diabetes in that animal model elicited mixed responses from the research community.[8]

Atkinson was one of the first to propose “combination therapies” to prevent or reverse the disease, as well as the repurposing of existing treatments and agents already approved for other diseases and conditions.[5] Atkinson has led or contributed to clinical trials utilizing several types of interventions to stop the progression of or reverse type 1 diabetes, including prophylactic insulin, glutamic acid decarboxylase, cord blood, cord blood plus Omega-3 FA, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (GCSF), and anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) plus GCSF.[9]

Atkinson is currently leading an NIH funded clinical research trial aiming to assess immune function during different stages of type 1 diabetes. The goal is to learn more about the genetics and immune function of blood cells, diet, and viruses and how they relate to the progression of T1D.[10]

Atkinson is also active in studies assessing the human intestinal microbiome, pancreatic pathology, human pancreatic weight and beta cell development, as well as improving methods of data management.[9]


Atkinson is the Executive Director for the Network for Pancreatic Organ donors with Diabetes (nPOD), the world's largest "open access" biobank of human tissues from persons with or at varying levels of risk for type 1 diabetes. NPOD is funded by JDRF.[11]

Through nPOD, Atkinson and other collaborators support research utilizing transplant-grade human tissues obtained from organ donors, including pancreas, spleen, whole blood, serum, lymph nodes, pancreatic lymph nodes, skin and bone marrow. The goal is to better understand the causes of type 1 diabetes and identify potential approaches to curing the disease. Atkinson has directed nPOD since its founding in 2007, during which time it has supported over 210 research projects in 19 countries worldwide.[5]

Research collaborations[edit]

In addition to nPOD, Atkinson participates in a number of other collaborative research efforts. He is one of ten members of the Brehm Coalition for Type 1 Diabetes Research, and one of four initial members of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Type 1 Diabetes Research Initiative.[12] Atkinson also collaborates on a number of research initiatives with investigators around the globe as well as with his colleagues at the University of Florida’s Diabetes Institute.[13]

Leadership and influence in the field[edit]

Atkinson is the author of over 425 publications including numerous journal articles and book chapters. Between 1992 and 2002, Atkinson had 48 papers cited a total of 2,724 times, making him one of the five most highly cited diabetes researchers in the world.[1]

Atkinson provides leadership to numerous entities that focus on research and service to the type 1 diabetes community, and currently provides administrative or advisory service to JDRF, the American Diabetes Association, Diapedia, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Immunology of Diabetes Society. He is a charter member of the NIH’s Immune Tolerance Network Scientific Advisory Board, Chair of the NIH's Human Islet Research Network (HIRN), and a Steering Committee member of NIH TrialNet .[5]

Atkinson also formerly served as an Associate Editor for the journal Diabetes. He now serves as ad hoc Editor-in-Chief for that journal as well as Diabetes Care.[14]

Commercial and industry work[edit]

Along with his colleagues at the University of Florida, Atkinson is pursuing a vaccine strategy for preventing type 1 diabetes. The approach seeks to eliminate the immune response directed at insulin that is present in patients with the disease by generating antigen-specific Tregs (regulatory T cells) in response to the antigens of interest rather than try to eliminate the autoreactive destructive cells. To further this line of research, Atkinson and other investigators started a spin-off company called OneVax, LLC.[15] OneVax seeks to develop and commercialize a novel vaccine formula to prevent and/or reverse type 1 diabetes, incorporating biomaterials and polymers for applications including multicomponent and time-release drug delivery. Atkinson serves as CEO of OneVax.[16]

In addition to OneVax, Atkinson is a consultant to a number of companies in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry including Diamyd Medical, Genzyme, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and others.[4]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2003: Gerold and Gayla Grodsky Basic Research Scientist Award from JDRF for the outstanding Ph.D. investigating type 1 diabetes
  • 2004: Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, M.D. Excellence in Clinical Research Award from JDRF[17]
  • 2005: Eli Lilly Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the American Diabetes Association (ADA)
  • 2005: David Rumbough Award for Scientific Excellence from JDRF
  • 2008: Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, M.D. Excellence in Clinical Research Award from JDRF
  • 2013: Davis Award from the Children's Diabetes Foundation and Barbara Davis Diabetes Center for longstanding efforts to prevent type 1 diabetes
  • 2016: Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award from The University of Michigan-Dearborn[4][better source needed]

Humanitarian interests[edit]

Atkinson has joined with other leaders calling for a means to provide insulin to 100 percent of the world’s population who need it by 2022, the centennial anniversary of insulin availability. Atkinson also serves as an Advisory Board Member to the Life for a Child program.[5]

Atkinson has served with the Haitian Foundation for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Diseases (Fondation Haitienne de Diabete et de Maladies Cardio-Vasculaires), overseen by Nancy Larco. Atkinson has traveled to Haiti to provide medical, dental, and educational assistance, including after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[3]

Atkinson and his wife co-founded a non-profit organization, Hope on the Move, for humanitarian causes, primarily related to providing medical and dental care to developing nations.[18] Atkinson serves as secretary, treasurer and director of Hope on the Move.[19]

Atkinson is the president of Insulin for Life, a non-profit organization that collects insulin, test strips, and other diabetes management supplies and distributes them to needy individuals in developing nations as well as in the United States following natural disasters.[20]

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ a b "An Interview with Dr. Mark Atkinson". Special Topic "Diabetes". Essential Science Indicators. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Atkinson Lab". University of Florida Health. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Dooley, Karen (Summer 2010). "Bringing hope to Haiti". Florida Physician. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Mark A. Atkinson, Ph.D." University of Florida Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Atkinson, Mark (July 2013). "Trying to Make a Difference for Those With Type 1 Diabetes". Expert Review of Endocrinology & Metabolism (Interview). 8 (4). Interviewed by Rona Williamson: 323–327. doi:10.1586/17446651.2013.811869. 
  6. ^ Schweers, Jeff (7 October 2013). "UF Foundation names two UF professors as preeminence award winners". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Atkinson, Mark A. (17 August 2011). "Evaluating preclinical efficacy". Science Translational Medicine. 96. 3: 96cm22. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3002757. PMID 21849661. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Atkinson, Mark A.; Leiter, Edward H. (1999). "The NOD mouse model of type 1 diabetes: As good as it gets?" (PDF). Nature Medicine. 5: 601–604. doi:10.1038/9442. PMID 10371488. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Project: Microbiome and Type 1 Diabetes". Baylor College of Medicine. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  10. ^ "Immunological Studies in Type 1 Diabetes". The Diabetes Institute at University of Florida Health. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Chun, Diane (4 September 2007). "UF to lead in diabetes research". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Mark Atkinson". Brehm Coalition. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  13. ^ Stewart, Sarah L. (6 October 2011). "Doing Battle with Diabetes". Florida Magazine. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "The American Diabetes Association Announces New Editors for Diabetes Journal". American Diabetes Association. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "Dealing with diabetes" (PDF). International Innovation. 20 September 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "About us". OneVax. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  17. ^ Chun, Diane (2 August 2008). "Three UF researchers win diabetes award". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  18. ^ ""Hope on the Move" for Haiti". WCJB-TV 20. 12 January 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  19. ^ "About Us". Hope on the Move. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  20. ^ "Who We Are". Insulin for Life USA. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 

External links[edit]