University of Michigan regent, wife donate $30M for new diabetes institute

U-M Regent Ron Weiser and his daughter Elizabeth Caswell, for whom the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute will be named. (Courtesy: Michigan Medicine)

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser and his wife, Eileen, have donated $30 million to the university to bolster diabetes research and develop life-changing therapies.

The research will be in collaboration with Michigan Medicine and other schools and units within the university. The gift will see the establishment of the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute, named for the Weister’s daughter whose husband and two sons have Type 1 diabetes.

Pending approval by the Board of Regents, the institute will bring together a group of more than 250 world-renowned diabetes researchers who specialize in metabolism, diabetic complications and obesity.

“Elizabeth has been a relentless educator and advocate for people with diabetes and for diabetes research,” Regent Weiser said in a news release. “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.”

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Elizabeth is actively involved with the diabetes nonprofit JDRF and will soon be joining the organization’s leadership on its International Board of Directors and as vice-chair of its Research Committee.

“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,” Martin Myers Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the new institute, said in a news release.

“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.”

Caswell, of Ann Arbor, said Michigan Medicine has provided “top-notch care” to her husband and sons.

“Diabetes is so hard. You don’t want to think about complications, but you know they’re out there," Elizabeth Caswell said in a news release. “Diabetes doesn’t allow anybody to shut down and forget about it; there’s no break. Fortunately, the team at Michigan Medicine has been there for us every step of the way — advising us on daily care, advances in treatment technologies, and opportunities for clinical research. Until T1D is cured, we are grateful for top-notch care at one of the best research institutions in the world.”

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

“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,” U-M President Mark Schlissel said in a news release. “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.”

Both U-M alumni, Ron and Eileen Weiser have long supported the university as volunteers and donors, having committed more than $100 million to date. Their programs on campus are vast and include the Weiser Diplomacy Center, the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, the Weister Center for Real Estate, the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, Michigan Medicine’s Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center, the Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Cancer Center and more. As part of their support, the Weisers have also served as vice chairs of the Victors for Michigan campaign.

According to U-M officials, the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute will help strengthen the university’s global leadership in the space, and will include both national and international collaborators in addition to 20 departments within Michigan Medicine and 14 schools and units across campus.

“This gift is transformational,” Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the University of Michigan Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine said in a news release. “We are immensely grateful to the Weisers for opening the doors that enable our physicians and researchers to push the boundaries that will transition cutting-edge discoveries in diabetes investigations into lifesaving therapies for children and adults.”

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About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.