Sanford-Burnham News Archive

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona Boosts its Biomedical Research with the Appointment of Dr. Sheila Collins

ORLANDO, Fla. , April 16, 2010

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona continues to expand its expertise in diabetes and obesity research with the appointment of Dr. Sheila Collins. Dr. Collins joins the faculty as a member of the Metabolic Signaling and Disease program, and is the first female full professor at the Lake Nona site. The faculty appointment of Dr. Collins further promotes the Institute's cross-disciplinary research approach to tackle the complexity of obesity-related diabetes and its complications.

Dr. Collins' principal area of research is fat metabolism as it relates to diabetes and obesity. Her laboratory studies how fat cells control the storage and release of energy by examining the signaling machinery that relays the adrenaline signal. In addition, her lab studies the ability of some fat cells called 'brown adipocytes' to 'burn' caloric energy instead of storing it. Until the mid-1990s, adipose tissue had been largely considered an inert storage depot for excess metabolic fuel, much like a savings bank. There is now a deeper appreciation that fat cells themselves secrete key hormones that play significant roles in the regulation of body weight and insulin sensitivity.

"Dr. Collins is an outstanding addition to our research team. Her experience leading research teams and training young scientists will be a tremendous asset to our growing organization. Dr. Collins' work will contribute to our understanding of the development of obesity and diabetes from the cellular perspective. She is a tremendous mentor and teacher and brings great energy to each of her endeavors, said Dr. Daniel Kelly, scientific director of Sanford-Burnham Institute at Lake Nona.

Dr. Collins received her doctorate in biochemistry and drug metabolism from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and conducted postdoctoral research in the lab of National Academy of Science member Robert Lefkowitz at Duke University. She continued her research career as a faculty member at Duke University Medical Center and more recently also was a senior investigator and the Hamner Senior Fellow in Endocrine Biology at The Hamner Institute in NC. While at Sanford-Burnham, she will also serve as a senior advisor to the director of the Metabolic Signaling and Disease program.

Team Sanford-Burnham, the Institute's running team, also welcomes her arrival. Dr. Collins is a passionate researcher whose professional interests in fat metabolism carry-over outside of the lab, where as a fitness instructor and runner, she mirrors healthy lifestyle choices.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs more than 1,000 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

Sanford-Burnham can also be found on Facebook at and on Twitter @sanfordburnham.

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