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Faculty Honors and Grants

SMA Study Wins Distinguished Clinical Research Achievement Award

Jerry R. Mendell

The first clinical trial to test the functional replacement of the mutated gene responsible for SMA1, led by Jerry R. Mendell, MD, was recognized as a recipient of the Distinguished Clinical Research Achievement Award by the Clinical Research Forum in April 2018.

The Distinguished Clinical Research Achievement Award is presented to the top two studies that show creativity, innovation or a novel approach that demonstrates an immediate impact on the health and well-being of patients.

Results of the phase 1 clinical trial of AVXS-101, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2017, was one of the year’s honorees.

The study built on nearly three decades of foundational research led by teams at Nationwide Children’s and Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Mendell and his team at Nationwide Children’s led the clinical trial in collaboration with Arthur Burghes, PhD, of Ohio State, who created a groundbreaking SMA mouse model that remains the standard by which all therapies, including AVXS-101, are initially tested.

Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund Donates Additional $10M to the Institute for Genomic Medicine

Dr. Wilson
Dr. Mardis

The Nationwide Foundation bestowed a new $10 million gift for the Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund at Nationwide Children’s to help accelerate the most promising research and clinical discoveries.

The fund has supported several key clinical and research efforts in heart health, neonatology, injury prevention and most notably genomics, where it made possible the 2016 recruitment of renowned genomics researchers Richard K. Wilson, PhD, and Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, to lead the Institute for Genomic Medicine in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s. Since their arrival, Drs. Mardis and Wilson have worked collaboratively with clinicians in different subspecialties to introduce innovative genomics-based testing and have initiated new research efforts in several disciplines.

Thanks to this financial support, hundreds of families have received clinical genomics testing, providing diagnostic answers in several cases for children with complex and previously undiagnosed conditions. In addition, more than 50 children with cancer have been evaluated by genome sequencing to identify tumor-specific vulnerabilities that represent potentially new treatment directions. New focus areas for genomic research and clinical testing include epilepsy and other seizure disorders, behavioral health disorders and infectious disease. The Institute for Genomic Medicine has already grown to 120 employees working in clinical testing, technology development/validation and research projects, and we continue to identify and recruit outstanding staff.

Mardis is President-Elect of American Association for Cancer Research

The members of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) have elected Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, as president-elect for 2018-2019. She officially became president-elect at the AACR Annual Meeting in April and will assume the presidency in April 2019. Dr. Mardis holds the Nationwide Foundation Endowed Chair in Genomic Medicine and is co-executive director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Nationwide Children’s, and professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. She is a world-renowned researcher whose work centers on the genomic characterization of cancer and its implications for cancer medicine. As AACR president-elect, Mardis will work with the Board of Directors and the AACR membership, which includes more than 40,000 members in 120 countries, to further the association’s mission to prevent and cure all cancers through research, education, communication and collaboration.

Biospecimen Core Resource Wins $49.9 NIH Cancer Research Contract

Dr. Ramirez
Dr. Gastier-Foster

The Biospecimen Core Resource in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital received a new $4.5 million federal contract — with the potential of reaching more than $49.9 million over five years — to accept, process, ensure quality and distribute tumor derivatives for a number of national cancer research projects.

Led by Nilsa Ramirez, MD (lead pathologist), and Julie M. Gastier-Foster, PhD, FACMG (principal investigator), the Biospecimen Core Resource is part of a national processing and analysis pipeline supporting large-scale cancer genomic projects.

The new contract will fund the Biospecimen Core Resource’s role in reviewing and processing all incoming tissue specimens to meet rigorous standards for downstream genomic characterization. Currently the Biospecimen Core Resource processes specimens for the Cancer Driver Discovery Project, Clinical Trials Sequencing Project, Adjuvant Lung Cancer Enrichment Marker Identification and Sequencing Trials, Exceptional Responders Initiative, Burkitt Lymphoma Genome Sequencing Project, HIV+ Tumor Molecular Characterization Project, and more. The common goals of these studies are to unearth clues to the subclasses of different cancers and improve the medical community’s ability to diagnose, treat and prevent the diseases.

Trauma Researchers Earn Pediatric Trauma Society Awards

Dr. Samora
Dr. Xiang

Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s trauma research teams took home both Joseph J. Tepas Paper Competition Awards from the November 2017 Pediatric Trauma Society Annual Meeting. The awards are given for excellence in pediatric research.

A presentation conducted by Walter Samora, MD, Director, Pediatric Orthopedic Residency Program, won for its study that found a conservative approach to treating forearm fractures in which both bones are broken can reduce the number requiring surgery. The other winning team was anchored by Henry Xiang, MD, MPH, PhD, director of the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research and principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute. They study uncovered impediments causing children with traumatic brain injuries to miss follow-up care.

Forbes Names Nationwide Children’s to “America’s Best Employers” List

Forbes best places to work

Nationwide Children’s Hospital was named to Forbes’ “America’s Best Employers” list for 2018 in the top large employers category (companies with more than 5,000 U.S.-based employees). Despite being the first time Nationwide Children’s has appeared on the list, it is the highest-ranked of all children’s hospital.

Nationwide Children’s joins 25 hospitals and health systems named to the national list of 500 top large employers. America’s Best Employers were chosen based on an independent survey from a sample of more than 30,000 employees working for companies employing at least 1,000 people in the U.S. Employees participated anonymously through online panels that allowed employees to openly state their opinions.

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