11 Sep 2023

News 2023

Graduate House Monday Dinner Seminar Series hits 60 with a dose of insulin

A fitting speaker for the 60th Monday Dinner Seminar1 held in Graduate House was Sydney-based Endocrinologist Professor Roger Chen. Roger is Senior Staff Specialist in Endocrinology at St Vincent’s Hospital, Visiting Scientist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Conjoint Professor in Medicine at the University of New South Wales and Clinical Associate Professor in Medicine, University of Sydney.

Roger’s talk “From Toronto to the Gila Monster and Beyond” discussed the history and advancements in the prevention and treatment of Diabetes, noting it has been 100 years since the invention of Insulin in Toronto, Canada. This life saving drug has linkages across many diseases because of the interaction of hormones feeding glands, through the endocrine system in the human body. He explained how recently development of insulin manufacturing and delivery methods have greatly improved from a delivery system taking many minutes to just a few seconds these days.

In the mid 1990s, Drs John Eng and Jean-Pierre Raufman found that a hormone in the venom of the Gila monster—a large lizard native to the southwestern United States—stimulates the body’s insulin production.  

Beyond the Gila Monster, ‘smart insulin’ is in the developmental stages in laboratories including at the Garvan Institute, UNSW and Sydney University. There is emerging evidence of the protective effects of these and sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, such as preventing heart disease. Also, the relatively new injectable Ozempic is being used these days for its spin-off properties of weight loss which is now causing supply problems.

Roger made very clear that we all must take away the key message that losing weight greatly improves one’s health and lowers chances of type 2 diabetes (he said his work would be greatly reduced if we could teach people how to eat!), and we are yet to create an oral insulin delivery medication, something that will greatly improve the lives of many who suffer diabetes.

A lively Q&A followed his presentation and with the Chalmers Common Room filled by Med, Science, Law and Humanities students and one or two studying Business/Commerce, this seminar had much to inspire a range of future careers.

  1. Since its inception in 2019 ↩︎