April 16, 2015

TRI-Supported Researcher Inspired by Diabetes’ Toll on Family

TRI Researcher Elvin Price, Pharm.D., Ph.D.Elvin Price, Pharm.D., Ph.D., grew up watching family members suffer and die from diabetes.

His great-grandmother, who lived next door to his boyhood home in rural Quincy, Florida, and his great-aunt and uncle and their children, who lived next door on the opposite side, all had diabetes. It was part of everyday life seeing them administer insulin and discarding the needles in biohazard boxes.

One day his great-grandmother dropped a log on her foot and developed a diabetic foot ulcer. Despite her efforts to treat it, the ulcer became infected and she went into a diabetic coma and died.

“All of those family members ultimately passed away as a result of their diabetes,” Price said.

He thought it was odd that diabetes had struck so many family members, but he didn’t begin to see the bigger picture until he was an Eagle Scout. As a community service, he parked cars at funerals, and he always asked about the deceased.

“Everyone always knew what the diagnosis was, and it was always something related to diabetes, heart disease or hypertension,” Price said. “It seemed to be concentrated out in that rural community, and that was motivation for me to become some type of scientist and help figure out how to get better outcomes for people in small rural communities.”

Today Price is a rising research star, having been selected by the UAMS Translational Research Institute to receive two years of salary support and research funding with a KL2 Mentored Career Development Award. By targeting certain nuclear receptor genes, Price hopes that his work will lead to more individualized treatments, ensuring that patients get the safest, most effective medicines for their particular cardiovascular condition.

“I think back on that initial motivation, which was seeing people suffering, seeing people asking for help,” he said. “It continues to inspire me because I know people need this.”