History & Mission


A History of Innovation and a Vision of a Cure Drive UCSF’s Leadership in Diabetes

Scientists at UCSF have made many of the breakthrough discoveries in diabetes, including the cloning of the human insulin gene, which made possible the unlimited supply of synthetic insulin that now is used to manage the disease in many patients.

UCSF formed a comprehensive Diabetes Center in 2000, uniting physicians, researchers, and educators as an integrated team focused on improving the quality of life for those living with diabetes. Since that time, we’ve accelerated our research efforts to help generate new treatments and cures for this disease.

Below is is a sampling of the UCSF discoveries that have been instrumental in shaping diabetes research and care. UCSF investigators were the FIRST to:


  • Develop a procedure to measure insulin in blood
  • Link obesity to insulin resistance, resulting in revolutionary changes in diabetes treatment and prevention
  • Determine the hormone glucagon’s response to hypoglycemia
  • Demonstrate that elevated blood sugar causes complications, helping to pioneer the intensive glucose control strategies now utilized throughout the world 


  • Clone the human insulin gene that produced insulin, making possible the unlimited supply of human insulin available today
  • Identify autoimmune predictor of type 1 diabetes, helping to develop tests to predict those at risk for developing the disease
  • Clone and synthesize the human growth hormone gene


  • Develop the first immune tolerance therapies for type 1 diabetes
  • Coordinate the first multi-center clinical trial of human insulin
  • Co-discover embryonic stem cells that are widely believed to have benefits for diabetes and numerous other diseases


  • Discover defective genes that can cause obesity and type 2 diabetes


  • Define a master gene that controls autoimmune T cells
  • Build a state-of-the-art facility to isolate human pancreatic islets (for research and transplantation)
  • Create a roadmap for deriving islets from human stem cells


  • Create the first functioning human thymus tissue from embryonic stem cells in the laboratory, marking a significant step toward potential new treatments for type 1 diabetes and other immunodeficiency diseases