Åke Lernmark PhDSenior Professor in Experimental Diabetes Research; Principal Investigator of the TEDDY Study in Sweden, Lund University Clinical Research Center, Skåne University Hospital, Malmö, Sweden
Åke Lernmark received his medical degree from the University of Umeå in 1971. Åke performed the first studies of the properties of free islet cell suspensions derived from isolated rodent islets. In 1974 he became Postdoctoral Fellow at the laboratory of Donald Steiner in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Chicago. Here he scaled up islet cell preparations for first purification and characterization of islet cell membrane-fractions for development of islet cell surface antisera. In the late 70’s he applied the recently developed FACS techniques for sorting and characterizing of isolated islet beta, alpha and delta cell populations. Other important achievements during that period led to the discovery of islet cell surface antibodies in juvenile diabetics, which resulted in a landmark publication in the New Engl J Med in 1978.
In 1979 Åke Lernmark was appointed Director of Research at the Hagedorn Research Laboratories in Gentofte, Denmark. Åke was instrumental in making Hagedorn a world-leading laboratory and training center in diabetes research (so recognized by WHO). A number of key discoveries date to this time, among them the further dissection of the role of the HLA-D region in type 1 diabetes, revealing that HLA-DQ rather than DR confers disease susceptibility, and the key discovery (with Steinun Baekkeskov) of the 64K islet autoantigen as an excellent predictor of future type 1 diabetes. The 64K antigen was later shown by Åke Lernmark (with Allan E Karlsen) to be a hitherto unknown human islet isoform of glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD65).
In 1988 Åke Lernmark returned to the US to assume the Robert H. Williams Chair in Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Work in Seattle focused not only on the GAD65 discovery but also on the genetic dissection of autoimmune diabetes in the type 1 diabetes-like BB rat, demonstrating linkage with a lymphopenia gene on rat chromosome 4, revealing a new family of anti-apoptotic factors, the GIMAP family.
Åke Lernmark has become a distinguished leader in the international effort to achieve a better understanding and a cure for type 1 diabetes. He has trained and inspired several generations of physicians and scientists and developed international centers of excellence.