The University Record, March 19, 2001

Alan Saltiel, noted diabetes researcher, cell biologist, joins Life Sciences Institute

From News and Information Services

Alan R. Saltiel, a cell biologist and leading diabetes researcher, has joined the Life Sciences Institute. He is the first faculty member appointed to the Institute, following the appointment of co-directors Jack Dixon and Scott Emr in October 2000.

Saltiel, associated with the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research Division (now part of Pfizer) in Ann Arbor since 1990, was appointed professor of internal medicine (with tenure) and professor of physiology (without tenure). The appointments were approved by the Regents at their March 15 meeting.

At Parke-Davis, Saltiel was senior director in the Department of Cell Biology and a distinguished research fellow in the Department of Signal Transduction. He also has been an adjunct professor of physiology at the U-M since 1994.

“Alan is a world-class scientist who has made major contributions toward our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of diabetes,” Dixon said. “We feel that the experience he brings from his previous appointments at Rockefeller University and at Warner-Lambert Parke-Davis will be a major asset to the Life Sciences Institute.”

Emr noted that “a major goal of the Life Sciences Institute is to help establish links between basic science research and the clinical treatment of human diseases like diabetes. The appointment of Alan Saltiel represents an important first step in this direction.

“Alan is a world leader in diabetes research. His recent and exciting work on the insulin-signaling pathway, together with his identification of new molecules that function in this pathway, could aid in the development of new therapies for treating diabetes.

“Jack and I are very pleased that Alan has accepted our offer and agreed to be part of the Life Sciences Institute.”

Saltiel is an expert on insulin and how it works at the molecular level to control the metabolism of glucose and lipids within cells. Working with another hormone called glucagon, insulin regulates a complex network of cellular signals that sense and respond instantly to varying amounts of glucose in the bloodstream.

If this regulatory system malfunctions, cells stop responding to insulin, which leads to impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes.

Saltiel focuses on the molecular biology that underlies this vital regulatory process. He specializes in the field of signal transduction—the study of how hormones relay their messages in cells. Working with his research associates, he identified a novel series of critical signaling events for insulin that take place inside specialized compartments within cell membranes called caveolae. He also discovered a group of unique scaffolding proteins that transport enzymes and other proteins to specific compartments or insulin receptors.

Saltiel’s bibliography reflects more than 175 articles published in the most prestigious biomedical journals. He is a member of the editorial boards of four journals and is the associate editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

In 1990, Slatiel received the John Jacob Abel Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.