MILLENIUM NEONATOLOGY: MERGING CARE AND SCIENCE
During the last decade of growth in clinical facilities, research activities in Women & Infants’ Department of Pediatrics have grown to encompass a broad range of areas including: developmental biology, fetal endocrinology and metabolism, perinatal cardiovascular regulation, perinatal brain development and maturation, neurosciences, developmental immunology, molecular genetics, reproductive endocrinology, and neonatal neurodevelopment and behavior.
Brown is one of the few universities where undergraduate and graduate education in biology and the preclinical sciences for medical students are taught by a single, integrated faculty. Women & Infants Hospital, Brown University and Hasbro Children’s Hospital have closely adjoining research facilities less than one mile from the Brown campus. This proximity further facilitates interactions among all these institutions. There is close affiliation of faculty in clinical departments with basic science activities. Our faculty are actively involved in the basic science programs and graduate and postgraduate research education in Interdepartmental Programs at Brown including: molecular biology, biochemistry and cell biology, pathobiology, molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology and neuroscience.
Women & Infants Hospital recognizes that programmatic commitment in basic science complements excellence in clinical and translational research in all great research universities. In the fall of 1999, a program to enhance our research enterprise by investing in new faculty and laboratory facilities was undertaken to meet the needs of established and newly recruited faculty in developmental, reproductive and cancer biology, and vaccine development for cervical and breast cancer. The initiative came at a critical time when great strides were being made in the field of biomedical research, and Women & Infants’ faculty was experiencing significant new successes in extramural funding. In the Department of Pediatrics during 2004 there was almost $4.3 million dollars in federal, extramural research funding and more than one half million dollars in non-federal/foundation funding.
An unoccupied, manufacturing building nearby, later named the Kilguss Research Institute in recognition of a gift from the original owners of the building, was renovated with an emphasis on a "common user, common benefit" concept. The building design incorporates laboratory modules without full dividing walls surrounding a central core of shared space for cell culture, shared equipment, a darkroom, a cold room and a P2 biological safety facility. More than $5.2 million was invested along with a $1,000,000 award from the Health Resources Services Administration to support the renovation and construction costs. This project demonstrates that the institutional support for research programs and its dedication to faculty research is unequivocal and ongoing.
In the fall of 2003, the Department of Pediatrics at Women & Infants Hospital received a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Award in Perinatal Biology. The scientific aims of this COBRE program are to increase our understanding of cardiopulmonary development and help to develop new therapeutic strategies in perinatal biology and medicine based on understanding key developmental events.
The programmatic aims of this COBRE are to provide scientific and career opportunities to our faculty within an environment that fosters creativity and transdisciplinary collaboration. The award provides support for our investigators to collaborate with leading scientists in their fields and to utilize contemporary approaches in cell and molecular biology to address important issues in fetal/neonatal development. The combination of a supportive environment and a robust scientific setting has allowed us to enhance the scientific productivity of our entire faculty.
Each investigator in the COBRE program has laboratory space in this facility, access to common equipment and contact on a daily basis, creating an “incubator” type environment for discovery and collaboration. Our Kilguss Research Institute houses the laboratories of several successful senior investigators as well as young scientists, all of whom have demonstrated excellent potential for independent careers.
There is a close collaboration and a complementary relationship between the COBRE for Perinatal Biology, the COBRE for Cancer Research Career Development and the Center for Genomics and Proteomics. This relationship benefits all participating faculty as well as the larger research community. The core facilities of each Center are available to support the needs of our entire community of investigators. These core facilities include a mouse transgenic and knockout core, a bioinformatics core with Affymetrix microarray facility, an imaging core with confocal and electron microscopy, a proteomics core equipped with a QSTar LC-tandem mass spectrometer, a Ciphergen MALDI-tof protein chip spectrometer and a Molecular Pathology Core with tissue array and laser capture microdissection. Collaboration among the faculty and common access to these ‘enabling’ technologies has been critical to our success.
NEONATAL RESEARCH NETWORK
In 1991, Women & Infants Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University were awarded a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to become one of 12 centers around the country to form a network that will perform collaborative clinical research addressing a number of important and relevant neonatal issues. The grant, awarded on a 5-year cycle, has been successfully renewed for the past 15 years.
The Network’s main task is to perform randomized controlled trials to evaluate a variety of interventions that will reduce the incidence of neonatal morbidities such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, hyperbilirubinemia, neonatal infection, post hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, respiratory failure, and necrotizing enterocolitis. During the past cycle (2001-2005), our network participated in trials resulting in more than 30 peer reviewed articles. The Network also encourages the participation of junior faculty from each center in its research activities. During the past three years, five of our neonatal fellows have participated in network research and presented their findings at the national Pediatric Academic Societies meeting.