Diabetes Research Center

The University of California San Francisco's Diabetes Research Center (DRC) at Diabetes Center integrates multiple research programs in areas of islet biology, immunology, and metabolism. For more than 15 years, UCSF has actively expanded its research base in this critical subject area. Today, that research base is very robust but with a DRC-supported administrative and facilities infrastructure that coordinates and expands diverse research programs at UCSF into an interdisciplinary whole. 

The UCSF DRC includes senior and early-stage investigators from various departments and schools across UCSF campuses, providing collective research facilities, a lecture program that fosters interactions amongst laboratories conducting diabetes research, pilot funding for new and interdisciplinary research directions, plus an administrative infrastructure that promotes these integrative goals.


Research Programs

Islet Biology 

The Islet Biology Program includes research related to the development and function of the islet. One primary research focus is the overlapping steps in the progression from stem cells to organized islets.

Investigators compare and contrast pancreas development in organisms as varied as flies, zebrafish, mice, and humans. There is a strong emphasis on studies of islet regeneration oriented towards producing islets for transplantation into patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Islet Biology researchers also study islet function ranging from the generation of islet autoantigens predisposing islets to destruction in Type 1 diabetes to the regulation of beta-cell turnover and the progressive decline in beta cell function leading to beta cell failure and Type 2 diabetes.


Obesity & Metabolism

Examining the central and peripheral mechanisms controlling energy homeostasis. This highly integrated program includes basic and clinical researchers at multiple levels of inquiry dedicated to understanding energy balance.

Areas of emphasis include the central, neuroendocrine regulation of feeding behavior/energy balance and the regulation of metabolism in peripheral tissues. The Program is comprised of a series of interrelated studies in model organisms ranging from flies and worms to mice and humans. Strong genetic studies in all organisms, including humans, help to define the underlying basis of energy balance and its dysregulation arising from and contributing to obesity, metabolic disorders, insulin resistance and diabetes.


Autoimmunity & Inflammation

Researching the origins and therapeutic modulation of autoimmune destruction of the islet in Type 1 diabetes and into the role of inflammation in Type 2 diabetes.

Research within the program has led to novel insights into the surveillance of islet antigens leading to type 1 diabetes, the central role of the breakdown in T cell tolerance in that immune attack on the islet and the role of the immune system in reducing the response of tissues to insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes.



Bringing together researchers from other DRC Research Programs to investigate fundamental processes leading to diabetes in humans with those translating preclinical findings to improvements in diabetes treatment. One strong component of the Translation Program includes researchers involved in the development of treatments for Type 1 diabetes.

Researchers within the Translation Program also study the processes directly leading to diabetes in its most pertinent model organism, humans. These studies incorporate the ability to use a new generation of genomic and metabolic tools to investigate the underlying causes of disease and as well as the modes of action of drug therapies within the patient population. Human studies of the genetic and environmental factors affecting diabetes development and treatment represent another focus of the Translation Program. Thus, the Translation Program translates basic research to human treatment (“bench to bedside”) and studies humans to discover the most pertinent basic research areas (“bedside to bench”).

Core Facilities

Islet Production

Provides investigators with highly purified and functional mouse and human islets, along with consultative support for DRC members who wish to work with islets in downstream assays, and training for DRC members to learn to isolate their own mouse islets using standardized best practices. Enables the development of new methods and technologies for islet research. 




Consolidates, enhances and disseminates resources and expertise in tissue and cell imaging technologies. Advanced and routine microscopy instruments, training and assistance with image collection and image analysis are available.



Genomic Technologies

Provide access to advanced gene editing and genomic manipulation technologies to facilitate creation of novel animal models and systems for both targeted and genome wide analyses in diabetes research.



Cytometry & Cell Sorting

Provide and maintain highly sophisticated flow cytometry, cell sorting and mass cytometry instruments, including coordination of instrument procurement aligned with DRC needs, as well as consultation, operator assistance and training in order to enable robust best practices for data collection and interpretation


Pilot & Feasibility

The Pilot & Feasibility Program plays a central role in the DRC’s goal of integrating and advancing diabetes research at UCSF, by recruiting and supporting new and junior investigators, fostering collaboration, and encouraging an environment that supports exploration and innovation.

The UCSF DRC’s Pilot & Feasibility Program accepts proposals from all UCSF faculty to pursue new initiatives in basic or clinical diabetes research. Applicants need not be DRC members as the goal is to stimulate new diabetes research regardless of an investigator’s traditional focus.




To provide exceptionally high-quality opportunities for investigators at UCSF to exchange research information, for recognized experts in obesity and nutrition to enlighten the UCSF community on both research and clinical practice, and for faculty to educate trainees, as well as to strengthen the multidisciplinary and collaborative network that links immunology, cell development, and metabolism research being conducted across UCSF

The objectives of the program are to strategically integrate a complementary yearlong set of speakers regularly interspersed in the weekly Endocrine Grand Rounds, Diabetes Seminar Series, which includes Distinguished Speakers in Diabetes Research, and institution-wide joint seminars with UCSF graduate programs. We also hold an annual DRC & NORC retreat, a three-day symposium featuring trainee, faculty, visiting faculty, and keynote talks, across multiple UC Campuses.