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The Diabetes Research Center was conceived in 2000 as a collaboration between the Endocrine Divisions of UCLA and UCSD. The concept was quickly expanded to include the Salk Institute and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, as well as numerous other Divisions of UCSD and UCLA. The first application to NIDDK/NIH for a DRC was submitted in 2002. It was funded in 2003 offering four Core Facilities, Pilot and Feasibility grants, and educational opportunities.

Dr. Willa Hsueh was the the original PI. Dr. Jerrold Olefsky of UCSD assumed responsibility as PI in 2008. In 2014, the DRC further expanded to include the LA Biomedical Research (now the Lundquist) Institute, which is closely affiliated with the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, bringing our total number of affiliated institutions to five. In 2015, Dr. Alan Saltiel was recruited to UC San Diego from the University of Michigan to create and lead a new Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health. He now serves as Director of the DRC, with Drs. Peter Tontonoz as Co-Director. The DRC is currently comprised of four cores: the Transgenic, CRISPR Mutagenesis, and Knockout Mouse Core at UCSD, the Metabolic and Molecular Physiology Core at UCLA, the Genomics and Epigenetics Core at UCSD, and the Human Genetics Core at the Lundquist Institute and Cedars Sinai.