The three institutions contributed a total of $375,000 to support seven collaborative research projects that will use translational science to address health issues so complex they require new insights, conceptual approaches, and technological advances.
The health issues addressed in the seven projects include neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer that often carries a poor prognosis; focal epilepsy, a seizure disorder that can be resistant to treatment; medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor of childhood; and influenza. Other projects will focus on enabling visualization of peripherally inserted central catheters in situ without ionizing radiation; developing powerful new analytical tools to relate individual DNA profiles to the gene expression patterns in childhood diseases; and providing a model for understanding the precise developmental mechanisms of visual processing deficits in neurodevelopmental disorders.
The joint program is being coordinated through the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children’s National (CTSI-CN), a partnership between Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University.
“The CTSI-CN is committed to optimizing the research infrastructure that supports clinical and translational research at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University, particularly investigations focused on issues related to child health, childhood diseases, and childhood harbingers of adult diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease,” said Dr. Lisa M. Guay-Woodford, director of the CTSI-CN and associate vice president for clinical and translational research at George Washington University.
“The investigations we support span the spectrum from preclinical studies in experimental models, to bench-to-bedside translation, to community implementation,” said Guay-Woodford. “The primary goals of the CTSI-CN are to facilitate connections within the research community and provide investigators with access to a broad array of resources and services, training for the next generation of researchers and research teams, and community partners to develop and implement clinical and translational research studies. This partnership with Virginia Tech squarely fits with our core mission.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together teams of innovators in biomedical and health sciences research across a spectrum of disciplines but with common interests to tackle some of the most important health issues facing children,” said Michael Friedlander, associate provost for health sciences at Virginia Tech. “At Virginia Tech, we have a growing biomedical and health sciences research enterprise that encompasses chemistry, high-level imaging, engineering, molecular and structural biology, behavior, and the computational sciences, including bioinformatics. We’re fortunate to be able to partner with the world-class biomedical researchers and clinicians at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University. This program is a tremendous catalyst for transcending disciplinary and institutional boundaries and promoting innovative, leading-edge science to benefit children’s health.”
The program was developed by the leaders of Virginia Tech, Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University. After a series of scientific and leadership exchanges in Roanoke; Blacksburg; and Washington, D.C., a range of research teams formed, with more than 50 faculty investigators from the three institutions developing 23 grant proposals, from which the seven were chosen.
“This is a major step in fostering an important partnership in translational research among our three institutions,” noted Leo Chalupa, vice president for research at George Washington University. “This could bring major breakthroughs in terms of increasing our knowledge of the factors underlying some very serious diseases, and ultimately bring significant benefits to the children affected by these disorders.”
Each yearlong project has a co-principal investigator from Virginia Tech (from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke or from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute or the College of Engineering in Blacksburg) and at least one co-principal investigator from Children’s National Medical Center and/or George Washington University. The projects are expected to yield important findings, resulting in publications and the submission of inter-institutional research grant applications to federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. The plan is to develop a sustainable support mechanism that will allow the programs to advance beyond the pilot funding stage.
“This is just the first step in what we hope will be a highly successful partnership among Virginia Tech, Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University,” said Friedlander, who also serves as executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “We each have particular strengths in the areas and populations we serve. But by collaborating, we become something greater than the sum of our parts. What better mission could we have than to apply this synergy and scientific rigor to serve the health of our nation’s children?
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 215 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 30,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $450 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.