Meet a Broad Physician-Scientist: Jose Florez

Alice McCarthy, October 11th, 2011 | Filed under

Jose Florez, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and a new associate member at the Broad Institute, is one of 94 researchers to receive a 2011 Presidential Early Career Award, the highest honor given to scientists and engineers by the US government during the early stage of their careers. The award, announced by the White House on Sept. 26, recognizes those “whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering,” according to a press release issued by the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Jose was honored for his ongoing work investigating the genetics of type 2 diabetes and related traits, a project he has focused on since 2002 when he first came to the Broad as a post-doc working in the laboratory of David Altshuler, a Broad core faculty member. “I am interested in finding the genetic variants that contribute to type 2 diabetes, learning what these genes do, and what the clinical applications might be, both in terms of better prediction of diabetes or assessing responses to treatment,” Jose says.

Over the course of his ongoing Broad affiliation, Jose’s career has always been at the intersection of diabetes genetics research and the care of people with diabetes. As an Assistant in Endocrinology in the Diabetes Unit at MGH, Jose tends mostly to Latino patients with diabetes during his regular clinic hours. He also works in the MGH Center for Human Genetics Research and with his Broad collaborators to sort out how the waves of genetic information related to type 2 diabetes may affect his practice. “I am fortunate to be in a position where I can take this information into the clinical arena right away.”  

Jose Florez, MD, PhD

Jose is working on at least two high-profile research programs with important implications for people with type 2 diabetes. He is the lead investigator of the Study to Understand the Genetics of the Acute Response to Metformin and Glipizide in Humans (SUGAR MGH), a study that aims to connect certain genetic variations with particular drug responses to glipizide and metformin – two drugs commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. By analyzing various groups of patients with type 2 diabetes who carry these unique genetic variants, he hopes to more easily predict a particular patient’s response to therapy ahead of time.

Since Jose began his work with David Altshuler, he has also been leading the genetic research component of the Diabetes Prevention Program, one of the flagship initiatives of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“As a medical doctor trained in contemporary genetics research tools, I am able to efficiently bridge the gap between the clinical trialists in the DPP and the geneticists,” Jose explains.

Jose earned a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree at Northwestern University. He believes the combination degree was the perfect first step in preparation for a career caring for patients armed with the latest understanding of the science underlying their illness. By remaining clinically involved, Jose sees the gaps both in our current understanding of the pathophysiology of diabetes and its treatment. “There are deficiencies both in our understanding of why people develop diabetes and how we take care of it,” he says. “When you are caring for real people this gap is right in front of you and motivates your research.” Jose is committed to not only answering the questions but delivering the solutions as well.