|March 13, 2008||Media contact: Krista Hopson
Mott joins coalition to increase funds for kids' research
New legislation would address under-funding of children’s health research
Valerie Castle, M.D.
Meet the expert:
Ann Arbor, Mich The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is among 10 of the nation’s leading pediatric medical research institutions joining together to support an innovative new approach to the address the continued under-funding of federal support for pediatric research.
This new coalition – which has the support of all the major pediatric research societies – is lining up behind a bill to be introduced this week by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO) that would not only authorize increased funding, but also create a new structure to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of pediatric disease research.
Although children make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, only 5 percent of the funding from the National Institutes of Health is allocated for research on pediatric diseases. Plus, years of flat funding from the NIH is deterring promising young researchers from entering the field and threatening the future of Americans' health.
“Many diseases that begin development in childhood including certain cancers and obesity, can have serious implications well into adulthood,” says Valerie Castle, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and the Ravitz Foundation Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan Health System. “Without increased funding to advance pediatric research, we’ll limit our opportunities for important breakthroughs in medical research and therapies, and ultimately impair the overall health of our communities.”
The U-M Department of Pediatrics at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is a major contributor in the effort to better understand the basic mechanisms involved in pediatric health and disease. Its researchers have improved outcomes for childhood cancer, led to better treatment for premature infants with lung disease, and advanced non-surgical therapy for problems that used to require open heart operations – and they continue to work to translate laboratory breakthroughs into therapies to improve children’s health.
While among the leading pediatric research hospitals and departments in the country for total grants awarded by the NIH, Castle says new funds are needed to continue to advance pediatric research at Mott, as well as encourage young scientists in Michigan and across the country to begin new research.
“We need to be committed to establishing research funds that will create an infrastructure where brilliant research can occur, and support turning basic science into clinical advancements. This bill is a step in the right direction to making that a reality,” Castle says.
“The funding situation is unacceptable for today, and tomorrow,” says Dr. David Williams, chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine and Director of Translational Research at Children’s Hospital Boston, a spokesperson for the Coalition. “Currently there simply isn’t enough funding to find cures and better therapies for children who are suffering right now. In addition, when you consider the many serious, life-threatening health conditions that affect millions of adults, like heart disease and diabetes, which have their roots in childhood, you realize that without a concerted focus on pediatric research today, the costs of health care in the future will be enormous.”
Williams also noted that “the consequences of inactionare clear – we see them already today, as children continue to suffer and bright and talented young researchers are discouraged from entering careers in pediatrics because of a lack of funding for their work. But we can also envision the consequences of investment – not only helping ill children, but also making discoveries that will help advance adult health, particularly adult diseases with genetic components.”
The bipartisan Pediatric Research Center Establishment Act introduced by Senators Brown and Bond will help address this situation by amending Title IV of the Public Health Service Act to authorize NIH to establish up to 20 pediatric research consortia, each funded by a five-year grant of up to $2.5 million per year.
Each individual consortium will be a multi-institution network with one leading pediatric medical center at the hub, reaching out to and working with numerous other children’s hospitals and health organizations to conduct basic and translational pediatric research. This model will maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of NIH resources that are allocated, as well as creating a wider pool for recruitment of patients for the clinical trials that will be conducted. There will also be collaboration and sharing of results among the various consortia, putting an intense focus on pediatric research and creating lines of communication across the entire U.S. pediatric research community for the first time.
“Childhood diseases are traumatic to the whole family,” Senator Brown says. “But we aren’t doing enough to prevent diseases and treat childhood conditions. This bill would better coordinate pediatric research that will help generations of children overcome numerous devastating diseases and conditions.”
Senator Bond noted that “investing in pediatric research is necessary to continue the critical advances we have made in children’s health care. This bill means better health and health care for all children and will give hope to the doctors, nurses, and families who care for critically ill children.”
The impact of this legislation would be to highly focus the priority status of pediatric research inside the NIH, said Dr. Williams. “That’s why this new legislation is so important and why it enjoys such broad support among pediatric institutions and all the major pediatric research societies.”
The pediatric research institutions in the Coalition supporting the legislation are: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Children’s Hospital Boston; Childrens Hospital Los Angeles; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; The University of Colorado Denver and The Children’s Hospital; St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan; Johns Hopkins Children's Center and Children's Memorial Medical Center, Chicago.
To learn more about researching taking place within the Department of Pediatrics at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, visit www.mottchildrenshospital.org.
Written by: Krista Hopson