Children’s Discovery Institute awards new research grants

The Children’s Discovery Institute has awarded 15 new research grants, bringing the total investment in finding cures and treatments for devastating childhood diseases to more than $11.5 million since 2006.

The new awards, which began Feb. 1, total just over $4 million and were given to 15 researchers in seven departments at the School of Medicine and in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“Forward-thinking individual contributors interested in speeding the pace of discoveries in pediatric medicine made this possible,” said Alan L. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.D., Children’s Discovery Institute executive director and the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics. “Our institute investors understand the risks and potential rewards of supporting high-risk research by young investigators. They have refused to allow progress to lapse even in these troubled financial times.”

A special New Faculty Grant has been awarded to Audrey Odom, M.D., Ph.D., to assist with the establishment of her laboratory at the School of Medicine, where she is an instructor of pediatrics. Her investigation focuses on a new metabolic pathway in malaria that is not found in humans, and therefore provides a novel target for drug development. Odom is partnering with the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center in her research, which is being conducted for the Center for Musculoskeletal and Metabolic Disorders of the Children’s Discovery Institute.

Among the recipients is Barbara Warner, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, who will use the grant to create the St. Louis Neonatal Gut Microbiome Initiative. Warner and her colleagues will determine the nature and concentration of microbes in the gastrointestinal tracts of twin volunteers to understand the effect of human genes on bacterial content. Nguyet Nguyen, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, is studying the role of a specific receptor in lung development and lung injury to provide insights into approaches to modify lung injury during childhood.

Other grant recipients in this round of funding are Ana Maria Arbelaez, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics; Yehuda Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences; Roberta Faccio, Ph.D., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery; Sanjay Jain, Ph.D., M.D., assistant professor of medicine; Scott Saunders, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics; Monita Wilson, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine; Joshua Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics; Rob Mitra, Ph.D., assistant professor of genetics; David Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular microbiology; and Dong Yu, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular microbiology.

The Children’s Discovery Institute is also supporting the work of two postdoctoral fellows conducting research in the labs of institute members. They are Jeff Bednarski, M.D., Ph.D., clinical fellow in pediatrics, and Stephen Rogers, Ph.D., postdoctoral research associate in pediatrics.