Improving the lives of infants and children with developmental disabilities will be the focus of Washington University’s new Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (WUIDDRC).
The center, established with a five-year, nearly $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will focus on research to prevent and treat developmental disabilities in children. Special emphasis will be placed on clinical and translational research as well as on reaching out to families and the community with resources and services.
There are 14 such centers in the United States. This is the first new center to be funded in the last 20 years.
“Developmental disabilities are very challenging for families,” says Terrie E. Inder, MD, PhD, director of the WUIDDRC and professor of pediatrics, of radiology and of neurology and a neonatal specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Our long-term goal is to provide better care to children in our area through research, advocacy and better clinical services.”
Many families with children who have developmental disabilities receive services from the state in which they live, however, those services have been limited due to budget constraints, Inder says. The WUIDDRC will work closely with the State of Missouri, and a member of the center will assist state committees with recent research findings to guide future directions of services.
In addition, the WUIDDRC has reached out to community partners such as the Missouri Foundation for Health; Ranken-Jordan – A Specialty Pediatric Hospital; the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri; the Institute for Human Development in Kansas City, Mo.; and several other programs in Missouri to engage them in the center’s services and develop more active collaborations. This will enhance communication of research needs to the WUIDDRC from these state providers and of research findings from the center to patients and families.
“The establishment of WUIDDRC is a tribute to exceptional leadership, passion and dedication of Terrie Inder to this important area of pediatric disability,” says Alan L. Schwartz, PhD, MD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of the Department of Pediatrics. “Her optimistic vision for the future catalyzed by creative research is bright. We are proud to have her here and leading this effort.”
The center’s research focus will be on cerebral connectivity, genetics and environmental influences. Its sections are administrative, animal models, human clinical, imaging and biostatistics and informatics.
The WUIDDRC received additional startup funding from the McDonnell Centers for System Neuroscience and Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology and from the School of Medicine.
Inder also plans to collaborate with other IDDRCs in the Midwest to share knowledge and resources.
“Collaboration will give us greater knowledge of opportunities for helping families and will move the science forward faster,” she says.
More than 60 investigators from 12 university departments will be involved in the center’s research. Serving as associate directors are John Constantino, MD, the Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and professor of pediatrics; David Holtzman, MD, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of Neurology and professor of developmental biology; Jeffrey D. Milbrandt, MD, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Genetics and professor of medicine, of neurology and of pathology; Jeffrey J. Neil, MD, PhD, the Allen P. and Josephine B. Green Professor of Neurology and professor of radiology, of pediatrics and of neurobiology; and Schwartz.
The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers were established in 1963 as centers of excellence for research in mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Fourteen national centers are funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.