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9.15.06 Greenberg named to Atkins Professorship

by Mark Sullivan

Dr. Andrew Greenberg, whose research focuses on obesity and its complications, has been named to the newly endowed Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Professorship in Metabolism and Nutrition at Tufts University School of Medicine.

The chair was established by a $2-million gift from the Dr. Robert C. Atkins Foundation to support research into the role of metabolism and nutrition in managing obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

"I'm deeply appreciative of the Atkins Foundation's generosity," said Greenberg, director of the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, whose research into the role of genes in healthy nutrition recently was spotlighted in Time Magazine.

"These funds will provide a unique opportunity to move in new directions in uncovering the basis of obesity and its complications, in particular, diabetes," he said. Having lost his own mother to a stroke caused by obesity-related diabetes, Greenberg said, this work strikes a particular chord with him.

Greenberg's research into a protein called perilipin that helps regulate the breakdown of fat was described in the "Eating Smart" column in the June 12 edition of Time. He told the magazine he is trying to find out whether there are normal variations in the gene that codes for perilipin that affect a person's risk of becoming obese or developing diabetes.

The award from the foundation named for the late creator of the Atkins Diet comes with no conditions attached, Greenberg said. "I have the freedom to use the funds as I see fit to address important problems in this area of biomedical and nutrition research," he said, adding: "These funds come at such an important time, when National Institutes of Health funding is tightening."

The Atkins chair's establishment at Tufts indicates a "deep respect" for a "longstanding tradition of nutrition research starting with Jean Mayer and continuing to the present day," Greenberg said, and will "serve as a catalyst for collaboration amongst the Medical School, the School of Nutrition, and the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center."

The dean of Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, said: "We are grateful to the Atkins Foundation for its investment in Dr. Greenberg's exciting program of research. The endowed professorship recognizes one of our most talented faculty members. This support should enable Dr. Greenberg to advance his important studies in the special environment of Tufts, with its unique assembly of schools and research centers related to medicine and nutrition."

Tufts is among a select group of academic medical centers receiving awards from the Atkins Foundation, which has established similar endowed professorships at Washington University (St. Louis), Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas Southwestern and Duke University medical schools.

The Foundation's chairwoman, Veronica Atkins, said: "These recent awards are important steps forward in the Atkins Foundation's mission to improve world health through metabolic and nutritional approaches to effective disease management and prevention. I am excited about the possible findings this research may yield, and know that we're laying important groundwork for advances in the scientific community and general public's understanding of diabetes, obesity and other serious health issues confronting our society today."

The Atkins Foundation, established with a $40-million gift following Dr. Atkins' death in 2003, operates independently as a supporting organization under the stewardship of the National Philanthropic Trust, and is not affiliated with Atkins Nutritionals Inc.