C. Ronald Kahn

For the past 30 years, C. Ronald Kahn has been looking for causes to diabetes at the Joslin Diabetes Center, which is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Kahn received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2012.


Kahn was Joslin’s president from 2000-07, after serving as its director of research for two decades. Under his leadership, Joslin’s research grew more than 20-fold, clinical and educational activity tripled, and new programs were launched in several areas.

Kahn was named the center’s first chief academic officer in January 2012. In his new role, Kahn oversees faculty recruitment, appointments and promotions at the center, which trains about 150 doctors and doctoral fellows a year.

He is also co-head of Joslin’s Integrative Physiology and Metabolism section and the Mary K. Iacocca Professor of Medicine at Harvard, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1981.

Decoding the role of insulin signaling

Kahn is a renowned investigator of insulin signal transduction and the mechanisms of altered signaling in disease. His laboratory discovered the insulin receptor kinase, its two primary substrates and the molecular components of the insulin-signaling network.

In addition, he was the first to define alterations in the signaling network in type 2 diabetes, including the important role of insulin action in the brain, both in physiologic regulation and control of brain cholesterol metabolism.

His lab has made significant contributions to the understanding of obesity by showing that fat cells, called adipocytes, have different developmental origins and cellular functions that lead to risk of metabolic disease.