Research Center News: Funding

 Return to News Page

The Children's Memorial Research Center leadership is pleased to announce the following Bridge Grant Awards:



Grant title 

Estella Alonso, MD  Clinical and Translational Research Functional outcomes in pediatric liver transplantation 
Martha C. Bohn, PhD Neurobiology Bridge funding for development of genetically modified mesenchymal stem cells for Parkinson’s disease 
Udeme Ekong, MD  Clinical and Translational Research In vitro surrogates of functional tolerance in pediatric liver transplantation 
Laura Herzing, PhD Human Molecular Genetics Dissecting the role of maternal chromosome 15 duplication in autism 
Marilyn Lamm, PhD Developmental Biology Paracrine hedgehog signaling and the extracellular matrix in prostate cancer bone metastasis 
Marcelo Bento Soares, PhD    Cancer Biology and Epigenomics    A sequence-based strategy for epigenomic analysis of pediatric ependymomas

JPongracic NIAID Awards Five-Year, $56 Million Contract to Continue Study of Asthma in Inner-city Children

November 6, 2009 — Medical News Today (Source: Julie Wu, NIH/NIAID)

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has renewed the contract to continue studying asthma in children living in lower-income, inner-city environments. This five-year, $56 million award will support the Inner-City Asthma Consortium (ICAC), a nationwide clinical trials network to evaluate promising new therapies to reduce asthma severity and prevent disease, and to perform basic research to understand how these therapies work. Investigators at participating sites will develop and conduct clinical trials that evaluate the safety and efficacy of promising immune-based therapies designed to reduce asthma severity and prevent disease. In addition, the researchers will examine what makes inner-city asthma different from that in other environments. Another goal is to determine what causes exacerbations (a worsening of asthma symptoms) and develop appropriate treatments. Jacqueline Pongracic, MD is the principal investigator for Children’s Memorial. Pongracic is head of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s Memorial Hospital; Associate professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine; and a member of the Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program of Children's Memorial Research Center.
Santhanam Suresh  Santhanam Suresh, MD is co-investigator on a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Research Resources entitled: “Development of a small volume sampling technique for fentanyl pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and pharmacogenetic analysis in preterm and term neonates with and without cyanotic congenital heart disease”. The principal investigator is Ronald J. Sokol, MD from the University of Colorado, Denver. Suresh is Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; Director, Pain Management Service; Director of Research, Department of Anesthesiology at Children’s Memorial; and Associate director of anesthesia research at the research center.

John Crispino

Bento Soares

Vasil Galat

Peter F. Whitington

NIH Challenge Grants awarded to research center investigators

Peter F. Whitington, MD and John Crispino, PhD have been awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research. “Challenge Areas, defined by the NIH, focus on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation, or research methods that would benefit from an influx of funds to quickly advance the area in significant ways. The research in these areas should have a high impact in biomedical or behavioral science and/or public health.” (from

Crispino’s award is entitled: “Identification of altered molecular signatures of Down syndrome iPS cells” and is in the amount of $1,000,000 over two years. Crispino is Associate professor of Medicine–Hematology/Oncology at the Feinberg School and a member of the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program of the research center. His co-investigators are Marcelo Bento Soares, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; Rachelle and Mark Gordon Endowed Professor and director of the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program of the research center; and Vasil Galat, PhD, Research assistant professor and director of the iPS and Human Stem Cell Core facility. Crispino and Soares are members of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. In order to understand how trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) affects blood cell development, the scientists will analyze gene expression and methylation profiles of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) generated from individuals with and without DS. In addition, they will compare the hematopoietic differentiation potential of these two groups of iPSCs as a way to study the effect of trisomy 21 on blood cell development and disease. iPSCs provide a powerful new tool for performing research on this complex genetic disorder. The project’s longterm goal is to determine which of the microRNAs, mRNAs or methylation differences that are detected in trisomy 21 cells contribute to aberrant hematopoiesis and the predisposition to leukemia in infants and children with DS.

Whitington’s challenge grant is entitled “Serologic test for neonatal hemochromatosis in infants with acute liver failure” and is in the amount of $561,739 over two years. This project seeks to develop an approach that will improve the diagnosis of acute liver failure in infants, resulting in significantly improved outcome with medical therapy, and reduced utilization of liver transplantation in pediatric patients. Neonatal hemochromatosis (NH) is the leading diagnosed cause of liver failure in neonates in most series. However, no diagnosis for acute liver failure can be established in up to 40 percent of infants. The overall objective of this project is to determine the true prevalence of NH as a cause of acute liver failure in infants who are younger than 90 days of age. The critical gap in scientific knowledge to be overcome is the lack of a sensitive and specific diagnostic biomarker for NH. The biomarker to be studied in this project is the presence of “anti-fetal hepatocyte IgG antibody” in mothers’ or infants’ serum. The expected results will show that NH constitutes fully 50 percent of all causes of acute liver failure in young infants. This finding will have a positive impact because NH is responsive to specific medical therapy, which improves outcome over current treatment including liver transplantation. Furthermore, should the test used in this analysis prove to be sensitive and specific for the diagnosis, it could replace current diagnostic approaches and prospectively improve diagnostic accuracy in this setting. Whitington is the director of the Siragusa Transplantation Center; Sally Burnett Searle Professor of Pediatrics and Transplantation; Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Feinberg School; and a researcher in the Clinical and Translational Research Program of the research center. 

ARRA Funding
On February 17, 2009, in an effort to create and save jobs, spur economic activity, invest in long-term growth, and foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 into law. Of the $787 billion in ARRA funding, $8.2 billion was given to the NIH to disperse to scientific researchers for two-year award periods.

This opportunity led to a dramatic influx of proposals to the Office of Sponsored Programs in April and May of 2009. OSP received a total of 75 ARRA proposals requesting in excess of $37 million dollars. Of those, 13 awards have been received to date with cumulative funding of $4,191,256.

In addition to the awards to Peter F. Whitington and John Crispino, Marcelo Bento Soares and Vasil Galat, the table below shows Children’s Memorial Research Center proposals that have been funded.

Christine DiDonato, PhD Human Molecular Genetics Program  Spinal Muscular Atrophy: Inducing SMN Expression
Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD  Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program  Epigenetic Effect of the Microenvironment on Stem Cell Plasticity and Function (two awards) 
Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD  Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program   Biological Function(s) of Maspin
Jhumku Kohtz, PhD  Developmental Biology Program  The Mechanism and Significance of EVF ncRNA Regulation of the DIX Genes 
Marilyn L.G. Lamm, PhD  Developmental Biology Program  SHH Signaling: Role in Prostate Cancer Bone Metastasis 
Honglin Li, PhD  Neurobiology Program  Functional Study of C53 Protein as a Novel Regulator of Checkpoint Kinases 
Hans-Georg Simon, PhD Developmental Biology Program The Role of LMP4 in the Regulation of the Cardiac Transcription Factor TBX5
Jacek Topczewski, PhD Developmental Biology Program WNT Signaling in Craniofacial Cartilage Morphogenesis
Xiaobin Wang, MD, MPH, ScD Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program Genome-Wide Association Study of Food Allergy

To view a searchable database of all NIH grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, visit index.aspx.

Children's Memorial Hospital launches web site for federal stimulus dollars
Congress passed and President Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), also known as the Stimulus Package, in February 2009. Contained within this act is the allocation of billions of dollars for research funded through various federal funding agencies.

Children’s Memorial Hospital, Office of Sponsored Programs, has built this webpage that lists the various funding opportunities as they are released, website links to the federal and state agencies recovery home pages, and postings of important news and updates related to ARRA.  See:

Isabelle De Plaen

 Isabelle De Plaen, MD  was awarded a 2008 American Gastroenterological Association Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition Bridging Grant. Her long-term goals are to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that lead to neonatal enterocolitis (NEC), a deadly disease affecting the bowel of the premature infant, and to develop new therapeutic approaches. De Plaen’s laboratory has developed and characterized a neonatal mouse model of NEC. Using this model, she is studying the cell-specific role of the transcription factor nuclear factor-kB, a major regulator of inflammation, on bowel injury and NEC. She expects that the results will have an important impact on the understanding of NEC pathogenesis and promote specific celltargeted therapies to change the outcome of this devastating disease. De Plaen is Associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, a member of the Center for Digestive Diseases and Immunobiology of the research center and a neonatologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Food allergy study
Twelve investigators have received grants totaling $5 million over two years to lead high-impact, innovative studies on food allergy, a significant public health concern. Xiaobin Wang, MD, MPH, ScD, is a recipient.  Read more. 

NUCATS award
The Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NUCATS) garnered a $29 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH. The award supports NUCATS’ ongoing efforts and funds five centers within the institute. Two of the five centers will be led by Children’s Memorial attending physicians. Read more.

Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust support exciting, ground-breaking studies
Children’s Memorial Research Center was recently awarded two grants from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. The grants will support Dr. Xiaobin Wang’s study, “Application of Genomics and Proteomics Approach in Understanding Biological Mechanisms of Food Allergy,” and Dr. Hans-Georg Simon’s study, “Rebuilding a Heart.”  Read more. 

Salamanders, like the red spotted
newt, can regenerate their limbs,
tails, spinal cords and jaws.

Simon receives grant to study limb regeneration
Do mammals have the potential to re-grow arms and legs? A Children’s Memorial Research Center scientist is part of a national study seeking to answer that question. The partial or complete loss of digits or limbs and deforming disabilities resulting from serious illness can profoundly affect a person’s life. This presents a challenge for the medical community charged with their care.
Recognizing the need for novel approaches that can restore, even partially, the structure and function of lost or damaged tissues, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $3.7 million grant to a consortium of six universities and research centers to unlock the regenerative potential in humans.  Read more. 

Blagojevich press conference
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich commits $10 million to stem cell

State grant results in $2 million for stem cell research
Children's Memorial Research Center recently received nearly $2 million in a two-year grant from the state of Illinois for research on reversal of disease progression by stem cells. The research center was awarded the largest single grant out of 10 local institutions receiving funds from Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI), which was created by Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s executive order last July to provide $10 million in state-funded grants for stem cell research. Children’s Memorial was the only pediatric institution to receive IRMI funding. The research center’s president and scientific director, Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, will be the principal investigator.

Morris receives McKnight Grant to explore causes of brain disorders
The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience has committed $1.5 million over three years to investigate the root causes of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The 2006 Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards will support U.S. scientists for research aimed at diagnosing, preventing, and treating injuries or diseases of the brain or spinal cord. The five projects selected this year are studying mechanisms involved in stroke, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, autism, and sleep disorders. Each will receive $300,000 over the three-year period.  Read more. 

Fox Foundation grant funds major gene therapy advance for treatment of Parkinson's disease
An innovative gene therapy approach pioneered by Pennsylvania-based RheoGene Inc. will be further refined and tested in preliminary clinical trials within four years, thanks to a $4.2 million grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF).  A wholly owned affiliate of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), RheoGene Inc. has developed technology to manage gene expression, a key component of gene-based therapies. RheoGene's therapeutic system uses a patented small-molecule mediator that can turn genes "on" or "off" as well as adjust the level of gene activity similar to the way a rheostat regulates electric current.  Read more.

 Return to News Page 

Back to the top of the page