Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal gets $11.5 mil­lion to es­tab­lish cen­ter

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - ANDY DAVIS ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

The re­search in­sti­tute at Arkansas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal has been awarded $11.5 mil­lion over five years to es­tab­lish a cen­ter with a new ap­proach to study­ing child­hood dis­eases, hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The Cen­ter for Trans­la­tional Pe­di­atric Re­search will use a re­search method, known as sys­tems bi­ol­ogy, that in­volves us­ing com­put­ers to an­a­lyze large amounts of data.

“It’s go­ing to have quite a huge im­pact” at Arkansas Chil­dren’s Re­search In­sti­tute, said Alan Tack­ett, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Arkansas for Med­i­cal Sci­ences who will di­rect the grant-funded cen­ter.

Ex­plain­ing how sys­tems bi­ol­ogy works, Tack­ett said a re­searcher study­ing the ef­fect of breast-feed­ing on the bac­te­ria in an in­fant’s di­ges­tive tract us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods might study one species of bac­te­ria at a time.

Us­ing sys­tems bi­ol­ogy, Tack­ett said, the same re­searcher could an­a­lyze DNA to study the changes in thou­sands of bac­te­ria species at the same time.

“This is cut­ting-edge-type stuff,” he said.

The money will help pay the salaries of four ju­nior UAMS fac­ulty mem­bers who will re­search pe­di­atric blood dis­or­ders, in­fant brain de­vel­op­ment in obese moth­ers, im­mune sys­tem de­vel­op­ment in in­fants who breast­feed and pe­di­atric chronic kid­ney dis­ease.

Af­ter two years, those re­searchers will be re­quired to ap­ply for other grants, po­ten­tially free­ing up money from the orig­i­nal grant that could be used to sup­port ad­di­tional re­searchers.

The grant from the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health also will pro­vide equip­ment, sup­port staff and men­tors for the ju­nior fac­ulty mem­bers and pay to up­grade the com­put­ers at the re­search cen­ter, Tack­ett said.

The grant is the re­search cen­ter’s largest ever from the agency, hos­pi­tal spokesman Hi­lary DeMillo said. The sec­ond-largest was an award of $9.4 mil­lion last year to sup­port five years of re­search on child­hood obe­sity.

Both grants were awarded un­der the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health’s In­sti­tu­tional De­vel­op­ment Award pro­gram, which tar­gets states that have had low lev­els of Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health fund­ing in the past.

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