June 15, 2020

$30M gift to establish the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute at the University of Michigan

Gift will accelerate discovery and innovation in diabetes research in pursuit of life-changing therapies

Elizabeth Caswell and Regent Ron Weiser
Elizabeth Caswell and Regent Ron Weiser

Regent Ron Weiser and his wife, Eileen, of Ann Arbor, have committed $30 million to the University of Michigan for diabetes research and the development of life-changing diabetes therapies at Michigan Medicine, in collaboration with other University of Michigan schools and units for diabetes research. The gift — named for Regent Weiser’s daughter who has two sons and a husband with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) — will be used to establish the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute, pending approval by the Board of Regents, and advance U-M faculty-led collaborative projects that have the potential for rapid clinical application.

“Elizabeth has been a relentless educator and advocate for people with diabetes and for diabetes research,” said Regent Weiser. “Our family hopes that the collaboration among physicians, researchers, innovators and advocates across campus will allow the work she’s done — and continues to do — to be rewarded with cures for diabetes.” She has served tirelessly on behalf of the diabetes nonprofit JDRF and will be a member of the FY21 JDRF International Board of Directors and vice-chair of the JDRF Research Committee.

The Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute will centralize and coordinate campus resources — anchored by a group of more than 250 world-renowned, dynamic researchers in diabetes, diabetic complications, obesity and metabolism — and allow U-M to bring new depth and discovery to the quest for answers to diabetes.

“This is one of the most important things that has happened for diabetes research, not just for the University of Michigan, but for the whole country,” said Martin Myers Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the new institute. “The institute is built on the idea that we can’t only study one aspect of diabetes, but rather that we need to work together to attack every piece of this disease at the same time. Thus, we will simultaneously work toward making designer insulin-producing beta cells as a therapy for diabetes, seek to understand how to block the onset of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and focus on how to improve clinical care and access to current lifesaving therapies.”

And, to ensure that a new generation of researchers are trained to continue investigations that mitigate the impact of T1D, Elizabeth and her

husband, Trey, also partnered with Regent Weiser and Mrs. Weiser to establish the Caswell Family Fellowship in pediatric endocrinology, part of the $30 million commitment.

“The Weiser family has a long history of championing the work of faculty and teams at the University of Michigan through their generosity and proliferation of vital partnerships,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “This gift will ensure that U-M is able to translate scientific discoveries into treatments for diabetes that save lives in our community and beyond. I am personally touched by the way this family has translated their personal experience with diabetes into hope for all people, and grateful for their confidence in U-M’s promise to make a difference.”