Department of Pediatrics ranks in top five for NIH grants

By Holly Korschun | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Feb. 24, 2014

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Emory's Department of Pediatrics, in partnership with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, has risen rapidly in the ranks of NIH funded departments, from 26th in 2009 to 12th in 2012 and 5th in 2013.

The Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, in partnership with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, has achieved a top five ranking among pediatric departments in the United States in research funding awarded from the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 2013.

The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research reported the rankings, placing Emory in the fifth spot in pediatrics funding, up from 12th in 2012 and 26th in 2009. In a jointly developed research strategic plan, Emory and Children's previously set a goal to reach the top 10 in NIH-funded departments of pediatrics by 2018.

"This significant accomplishment is attributable to our dedicated and hard-working faculty and the strong support of both our institutions," says Barbara J. Stoll, MD, George W. Brumley, Jr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. "Our partnership is allowing us to attract investigators who are conducting research that matters and is leading to life-saving discoveries for children everywhere."

"We are elated to now be among the top five NIH-funded pediatric departments, because this is a strong indicator of an institution's strength in child health-related research," says Paul Spearman, MD, vice chair of research in the Department of Pediatrics and chief research officer for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "Ultimately this means that we are performing vital research that will improve the lives of kids across the globe. In addition, this ranking really speaks to the growing strength of the partnership between Children's and Emory University, a key component of our overall pediatric research enterprise that also includes Georgia Tech and Morehouse School of Medicine."

Some recent NIH funded projects include:

An $8.3 million grant from the NIH created an Autism Center of Excellence (ACE), a comprehensive and collaborative research effort among Marcus Autism Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Emory Department of Pediatrics at Emory, and Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory. The Center of Excellence brings together more than 25 researchers and physicians in eight laboratories in the three highly connected Atlanta institutions, along with collaborators at Florida State University.

The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University received a grant of almost $10 million over five years to target lethal lung damage that causes the many deaths in children with sickle cell disease. The grant, awarded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, of the NIH, will foster bench-to-bedside research to find treatment for a complication of sickle cell disease called "acute chest syndrome." Acute chest syndrome damages the lungs, causing them to fill with fluid and sometimes resulting in respiratory failure.

The more than $26 million in total NIH grants will help Emory and Children's researchers continue their revolutionary efforts to develop new treatments or cures for diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer and blood disorders, cardiovascular disease, epilepsy, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases and autism.

The Emory-Children's Pediatric Research Center, which also includes partnerships with Georgia Institute of Technology and Morehouse School of Medicine, comprises 13 priority centers in cancer and blood disorders, immunology and vaccines, transplant immunology and immune therapeutics, cystic fibrosis, developmental lung biology, cardiovascular biology, drug discovery, autism, neurosciences, nanomedicine, outcomes research and public health, and clinical and translational research.