BIDMC researcher Shingo Kajimura, PhD, ScD, named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator

Chloe Meck cmeck@bilh.org

SEPTEMBER 27, 2021

Kajimura will use the award to advance research in metabolic health

BOSTON – The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has named 33 scientists, including Shingo Kajimura, PhD, ScD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), as HHMI Investigators – recognizing them as outstanding scientists working to solve some of the most challenging problems in biomedical research. Selected out of more than 800 eligible applicants, each new Investigator will receive roughly $9 million over a seven-year term, which is renewable pending a successful scientific review.

“HHMI is committed to giving outstanding biomedical scientists the time, resources, and freedom they need to explore uncharted scientific territory,” said Erin O’Shea, president of HHMI, in a statement. “By employing scientists as HHMI Investigators, rather than awarding them research grants, the Institute is guided by the principle of ‘people, not projects.’”

Kajimura joins approximately 250 HHMI Investigators making significant contributions across biology and medicine and will use the award to continue his research in metabolic health.

“I am honored to become a part of the prestigious HHMI community and grateful to be surrounded by my tremendous colleagues and a deep appreciation for basic science research at BIDMC,” said Kajimura, a researcher in the division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at BIDMC. “With this flexible support, we are committed to ‘discovery science’ that triggers innovation in the field of metabolic disease and beyond.”

Also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Kajimura’s work highlights the critical role fat cells play in energy metabolism. His lab is working to identify how white fat, which stores energy, is remodeled into brown and beige fat, which burns energy and generates heat, and how such processes go awry in metabolic diseases. The team has shown that beige fat collects sugar and other metabolites, removing them from the bloodstream where they can wreak havoc on the body. This discovery suggests that beige fat could counteract diabetes.

Kajimura and his research team are working to pinpoint the molecular players that might help brown and beige fat ward off metabolic diseases. They have discovered the master regulator of brown and beige fat development and the molecule that transports fuel inside these cells. These findings could one day enable scientists to rewire a person’s metabolic circuitry, potentially improving their metabolic health.

“Kajimura is an outstanding scientist who is pursuing unconventional approaches to reveal critical information about metabolic health,” said Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, Hon. ScD, chief academic officer of BIDMC and Beth Israel Lahey Health. “This work has the potential to impact millions of patients. All of us at BIDMC extend our sincere congratulations to Kajimura on this thoroughly deserved honor.”

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,800 physicians and 36,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.