Chris is a renowned leader in the field of diabetes and obesity research, with a career spanning over three decades, more than 100 published manuscripts, industry and academic leadership roles at top institutions that include Harvard Medical School and the Joslin Diabetes Center. Chris is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, Kovler Diabetes Center.  

Chris’ research journey began in 1984 when he received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of London. Soon after, he was quickly established as a pioneering force in the field of diabetes research—beginning with postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the Joslin Diabetes Center and the University of Cambridge and following with academic appointments and industry roles among some of the most venerated institutions in the US and the UK.

Chris’ diabetes research has centered on the molecular mechanisms of insulin production and secretion, as well as signal transduction pathways that control pancreatic beta-cells growth and death in relation to the pathogenesis of diabetes. His work has earned him numerous awards and honors, as well as research funding from esteemed organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health. He also was a member of the National Institutes of Health Endocrinology and CADO Study Sections, an associate editor for Diabetes, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, a reviewer for multiple other peer-reviewed journals and is a frequent visiting professor and lecturer.

In 2015, Christopher joined MedImmune as the VP of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease (CVMD) Research. In this role, he’s responsible for developing and growing the CVMD research base in the US and the UK, as well as contributing to the product development goals and vision across the CVMD therapeutic area. His research continues to focus on the molecular pathogenesis of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as the regulation of biosynthesis and production of polypeptide hormones; signal transduction mechanisms for insulin sensitivity; and novel pharmacological biologic targets for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.


Chris oversees multiple current projects within the CVMD therapeutic area, from identifying novel pathways that alleviate insulin demand in type 1 and 2 diabetes to enhancing the mechanisms of reverse cholesterol transport to reduce atherosclerotic plaque disease and cardiovascular disease risk.

University of Cambridge

While at the University of Cambridge, Chris was an instrumental member of the team that discovered enzyme activities for proinsulin to insulin processing

Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute

Helped to build a diabetes research institute in Seattle, WA

University of Chicago

Built the research department and helped found the Kovler Diabetes Center, at the University of Chicago


Named Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago


Became one of only two industry mentors (among a group of ~25) for the American Diabetes Association Symposium (2016)

Featured publications

Halban PA.  Newly synthesised proinsulin/insulin and stored insulin are released from pancreatic B-cells predominantly via a regulated, rather than a constitutive pathway.

Rhodes CJ, J Cell Biol. 1987; 105:145-153.


Intraorganellar Ca and pH control proinsulin cleavage in the pancreatic ß-cell via two site-specific endopeptidases.

Davidson HW, Rhodes CJ, Hutton JC. Nature 1988; 333:93-96.


Preferential Cleavage of des 31, 32 Proinsulin, over Intact Proinsulin by the Insulin Secretory Granule Type-II Endopeptidase: Implication of a Favored Route for Prohormone Processing. 

Rhodes CJ, Lincoln B & Shoelson S. J. Biol. Chem. 1992; 267: 22719-22727.


Chronic exposure to free fatty acid reduces pancreatic ß-cell insulin content bi increasing basal insulin secretion that is not compensated for by a corresponding increase in proinsulin biosynthesis translation.

Bollheimer LC, Skelly RH, Chester MC, McGarry JD & Rhodes CJ. J. Clin. Invest. 1998; 101: 1094-1101.


Ca2+-dependent dephosphorylation of kinesin heavy chain on beta-granules in pancreatic beta-cells. Implications for regulated beta-granule transport and insulin exocytosis. 

Donelan MJ, Morfini G, Julyan R, Sommers S, Hays L, Kajio H, Briaud I, Easom RA, Molkentin JD, Brady ST, Rhodes CJ. J Biol Chem 2002; 277:24232-24242.


Protein kinase B/Akt prevents fatty Acid-induced apoptosis in pancreatic beta -cells (INS-1).

Wrede CE, Dickson LM, Lingohr MK, Briaud I, Rhodes CJ. J. Biol. Chem. 2002; 277:49676-49684.


Type-2 diabetes – A matter of ß-cell life and death?

Rhodes CJ. Science 2005 307:380-4.


A cis-element in the 5' untranslated region of the preproinsulin mRNA (ppIGE) is required for glucose regulation of proinsulin translation.

Wicksteed BL Uchizono Y, Alarcón C,  McCuaig JF, Shalev A, Rhodes CJ. Cell Metab. 2007 5: 221-227.


Specific Regulation of IRS-2 Expression by Glucose in Rat Primary Pancreatic Islet ß-cells.

Lingohr MK, Briaud I, Dickson LM, McCuaig JF, Alarcón C, Wicksteed BL Rhodes CJ. 2006 J. Biol. Chem. 281:15884-92


Regulated autophagy controls hormone content in secretory-deficient pancreatic endocrine ß-cells.

Marsh BJ, Alarcón C, Soden C, Wicksteed BL, Yaekura K, Costin AJ, Morgan GP, Rhodes CJ.  Mol. Endo. 2007 21: 2255-2269.


FoxO Feedback Control of Basal IRS-2 Expression in Pancreatic ß-Cells is Distinct From that in HepatocytesDiabetes.

Tsunekawa S, Demozay D, Briaud I, McCuaig J, Accili D, Stein R, Rhodes CJ. 2011 60: 2883-2891.


Specific Glucose-Induced Control of Insulin Receptor Substrate-2 Expression is Mediated via Ca2+-Dependent Calcineurin/NFAT Signaling in Primary Pancreatic Islet ß-cells. 

Demozay D, Tsunekawa S, Shah R, Rhodes CJ. Diabetes. 2011 60: 2892-2902.


A Direct Autocrine Action of Insulin on ß-Cells: Does it make Physiological Sense? 

Rhodes CJ, White, MF, Leahy, J, Kahn SE. 2013 Diabetes 62: 2157-2163.


Pancreatic ß-Cell Adaptive Plasticity in Obesity Increases Insulin Production but Adversely Affects Secretory Function. 

Alarcón C, Boland B, Uchizono Y, Moore P, Peterson B, Rajan S, Rhodes OS, Noske, AB, Haataja L, Arvan P, Marsh BJ, Austin J Rhodes CJ. 2016 Diabetes 65: 438-50.


A brain to pancreatic islet map reveals differential glucose regulation from distinct hypothalamic regions.

Rosario W, Singh I, Wautlet A, Moore P, Patterson C, Flack J, Becker TC, Ali A, Tamarina N, Philipson LH, Enquist L, Myers MG, Rhodes CJ. 2016 Diabetes in press

Awards and honors

  • Welcome Trust Travel Award

  • Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International Fellowship Award

  • Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International Career Development Award
  • Mary Jane Kugel Award, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International Kroc Lecture in Diabetes, USC
    28th Arnold Lazarow Memorial Lecturer, University of Minnesota
  • Pfizer Visiting Professor, University of Michigan
  • Chair, Medical & Scientific Research Committee-II, JDRF
  • Research Planning Advisory Counsel – Islets. JDRF

  • Chair, American Diabetes Association 65th and 66th Scientific Sessions Meetings.
  • Chair, Medical & Scientific Research Committees, JDRF
  • Chair, American Diabetes Association Council for Molecular, Cellular & Biochemical Aspects of Diabetes
  • David Rumbough Award, JDRF
  • The Kovler Family Professor, Endowed Chair of Medicine

I grew up in an artistic musical family, which instilled in me very early on the essence of creativity. Science requires original thinking, and cultivating and using that creativity is fundamental to innovation and momentous discovery.

Christopher J. Rhodes, PhD VP, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease Research

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