• January 29, 2013
  • Penn Researcher Receives W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Award to Study Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes

PHILADELPHIA — Benjamin F. Voight, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology and Genetics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received an award for over $100,000 from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust to study the complex patterns of genetic inheritance and environmental factors that underlie cardiovascular disease specifically in type-2 diabetics.

“I am extremely honored to receive support from the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust,” says Voight. “As a newly minted investigator, support at this level is highly valuable in helping me to establish my independent research career. It is also a huge intellectual boost to receive support from such an important organization with strong ties to Philadelphia.”

Heart disease is substantially elevated in patients with type-2 diabetes, yet the biological and genetic basis for this elevated risk is not well understood.

“My research aims to fill this apparent gap in knowledge by applying statistical approaches in human genetics and computational biology to characterize the genetic risk of heart disease in patients with type-2 diabetes,” says Voight. “We will be looking for novel disease mechanisms and biological pathways contributing to this elevated risk. A better understanding of processes contributing to this predisposition is an important step in clinical management of both diseases, as well as a useful strategy to identify biological targets for therapeutic intervention.”

The most interesting component of the project is the idea that approaches in human genetics are particularly well situated to identify unknown biological processes contributing to disease. Systematic and unbiased studies in human populations have the potential to alter clinical practices for the better, as well as help focus therapeutic innovations on biological systems directly relevant to humans, explains Voight.

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