Children’s Hospital gets $11.5 million to establish center
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.