News Release

January 29, 2013


Karen Kreeger


Perelman School of Medicine

This announcement is available online at

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.


Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.