Mr. Murat Ülker, a leading entrepreneur in Istanbul, Turkey, has contributed $24 million on behalf of the Ülker family to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) to establish the Sabri Ülker Center for Nutrient, Genetic, and Metabolic Research. The gift will address chronic and complex diseases of a metabolic nature such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The incidence of these diseases has been increasing at an alarming rate in Turkey and around the globe while solutions have failed to emerge, having a devastating impact on health systems.
The gift, made in honor of the late Sabri Ülker, will support work being led by Dr. Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism and chair of the department of genetics and complex diseases. It will establish the Sabri Ülker Center to integrate advanced molecular and mechanistic research exploring how the body regulates metabolism and processes and uses nutrients.
Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980 and more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older are overweight or obese, leading to an estimated 3.4 million deaths annually. Health consequences of overweight and obesity include heart disease and stroke — the leading causes of death worldwide — diabetes, and several types of cancer. Recent studies have shown the prevalence of obesity in Turkey increasing to nearly 35 percent of the country’s population. Other research demonstrates that 13.7 percent of Turks have been diagnosed with diabetes as of 2010. In the U.S., researchers predict that the number of obese Americans will rise to 164 million by 2030, leading to 7.8 million more cases of diabetes, 6.8 million more cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 more cases of cancer.
“With rates of chronic metabolic disorders skyrocketing across the globe, this transformational gift comes at a time of great need for resources to support our basic research,” says HSPH Dean Julio Frenk. “The knowledge emerging from this line of scientific exploration has tremendous implications for efforts around the globe to prevent and treat problems like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”