A renowned diabetes researcher has been named the winner of the first Harold Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes, taking home $250,000 for the award named for an Oklahoma billionaire who also suffers from the disease.
Peter Bennett, now a scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health, was awarded the $250,000 prize Monday.
"The mission of this prize is to incentivize research and collaborative efforts internationally," said Hamm, the president and CEO of Continental Resources. "The prize is large enough to get the attention of people in this field of research and in others, and is another tool in the arsenal to fight against this terrible disease."
Hamm, who has Type 2 diabetes, announced the prize last year as a way to increase awareness of the disease. The prize will be awarded every two years, with the winner selected by a rotating jury of national and international leaders in the field of diabetes.
In his four decades of research, Bennett has identified insulin resistance as a major contributing factor to diabetes. He also introduced the idea that Type 2 diabetes is preventable through diet and exercise, according to a local business newspaper.
Initially trained as a rheumatoid arthritis specialist, Bennett turned his focus to diabetes research after surveying a group of Pima Native Americans in 1963. During his research, Bennett found that more than a third of the group suffered from diabetes — a much higher rate than any other population at the time. When he returned for the first formal diabetes study, he found the incidence of diabetes was about 38 percent — or eight times higher than in non-Native Americans.
"Finding that was like a bang on the head," Bennett said.
Since then, Bennett has traveled the world, leading multi-disciplinary diabetes studies on a variety of ethnicities, including Native American, Asian, and Pacific Islanders. For years he worked as the chief of National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease Phoenix Epidemiology, the diabetes research branch of the federal National Institutes of Health.