2009 Articles and Releases

Children's Discovery Institute Announces New Pediatric Research Awards
07/22/2009

Bringing new technologies to pediatric medical research is the focus of four new awards granted to researchers at Washington University by the Children’s Discovery Institute.  The awards, which began July 1, 2009, total $2,475,000, and will enhance research efforts in all Centers within the Institute.

Pediatric oncologist Todd Druley, MD, PhD, will serve as the Primary Investigator for a project titled, “Accelerating Novel Genetic Discoveries via Next-Generation DNA Sequencing.”  New, next-generation sequencing technology has led to more than a 100-fold decrease in the cost of DNA sequencing.

Along with co-investigator, Robi Mitra, PhD, a Washington University assistant professor of genetics, Dr. Druley has developed pooled sample sequencing techniques, which further accelerate the value of next-generation DNA sequencing in detecting and quantifying rare mutations. That work was funded by the Children’s Discovery Institute in 2007.

This unique approach developed by Drs. Druley and Mitra, will enable investigators to rapidly and inexpensively tease apart the genetic underpinnings of complex pediatric diseases.

The new $1,125,000 award ensures that equipment and trained personnel will be available for use by Discovery Institute researchers from all Centers.

Dr. Jeff Leonard, a neurosurgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, remains the primary investigator for the Children’s Discovery Institute Pediatric Brain Tumor Bank, which has been awarded $700,000 in new funding.  Pediatric oncologist, Joshua Rubin, MD, PhD continues as co-investigator on the project.

With pediatric brain tumors, the extreme difficulty in obtaining and culturing brain tumor cells has hampered research.  The Brain Tumor Bank aims to overcome that limitation.

To date, the Tumor Bank has collected approximately 100 brain tumor specimens, from which genetically faithful tissue culture and tissue graft models of pediatric brain tumors are being created.  The new award will enable expansion of tumor types and characterization of models to ensure they faithfully mirror the original disease. These models will be made available to approved researchers throughout Washington University studying pediatric brain cancer.

Dr. George Van Hare, the Louis Larrick Ward Chair in Pediatric Cardiology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and director of pediatric cardiology at Washington University School of Medicine, has received a $200,000 award to bring a novel electrocardiographic imaging modality to the Discovery Institute’s Heart Center research effort. 

This non-invasive technology is capable of accurately representing electrical potentials and activation patterns from the surface of the heart.  Investigators from pediatric cardiology, biomedical engineering, and pediatric cardiac surgery will use the technology in their research efforts aimed at improving outcomes for patients with congenital heart disease.

Dr. David Ornitz, Alumni Endowed Professor of developmental biology at Washington University School of Medicine, has received an award of $450,000 to support Discovery Institute investigations that utilize mouse models to study the genetic cause of disease.  The grant will support a newly developed cryopreservation protocol for managing the mouse lines used in research, which are expensive to develop and maintain.

The technique, which uses cryopreservation of sperm and proprietary sperm injection techniques, can reduce risks to mouse lines from natural disaster, infertility, genetic contamination, disease outbreaks, and spontaneous mutations.

With the addition of these four awards, the Children’s Discovery Institute has made grants of more than $6.5 million in 2009 to help researchers speed discoveries in childhood disease.

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