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Boston Children's issues $150K for pediatric innovation awards

Boston, Mass. September 27, 2013 Recognizing transformative advances in pediatric patient care, Boston Children's Hospital today announced three $50,000 Taking on Tomorrow innovation awards. The awards were presented at 1 p.m. today by outgoing Boston Children's Chief Executive Officer James Mandell, MD, at the Seaport World Trade Center during the National Innovation Pediatric Summit hosted this week by the hospital.

Three independent judging panels representing research and health care leaders inside and outside Boston Children's chose the awards (see appendix). The awards fell in three categories, judged for the maturity of the technology, the commercial potential, intellectual property considerations and the strength of the development team:

  • Research/Scientific Breakthrough in Autism (13 applicants)awarded to Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

  • Clinical Innovation (31 applicants)awarded to Charles Dumoulin, PhD, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

  • Community/Patient Empowerment (24 applicants)awarded to Christopher P. Landrigan, MD, MPH, and Alisa Khan, MD, of Boston Children's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School

"We were delighted to have an exceptionally strong pool of applicants for all three categories from across health care, industry and academic medicine," says Mandell. "I can say with confidence that the innovations and discoveries chosen by our judges will all create new standards in areas of pediatric care that are important to us."

The awards and projects:

Research/Scientific Breakthrough in Autism

Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD, chairman of Human Genetics and director of UCLA's Center for Autism Research and Treatment, is creator and leader of the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), a large-scale, cross-institution database used by more than 150 institutions to date.

Using AGRE, Geschwind's group identified two consistent sets of molecular changes in the brain, providing strong confirmation that autism's multiple different genetic or environmental causes converge on a common "molecular pathology" in the brain. The changes, found in more than two-thirds of subjects with autism, affect two molecular processes: the function of neurons and the activity of microglial cells, part of the brain's native immune system. The observed differences, validated in multiple independent samples, could be used to direct and inform studies to identify biomarkers of autism that could aid in diagnosis and therapeutic development.

Clinical Innovation

Charles Dumoulin, PhD, director of the Imaging Research Center in the Department of Radiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, led a team of scientists and engineers to develop a new type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system for infants.

Revisiting almost everything known about MRI, the system matches the imaging power of conventional scanners, but is small enough to image fragile newborns, including preemies as small as a pound or less, and has a footprint of only a few square feet, allowing it to be housed directly in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The system includes two methods for moving small infants into the scanner, including those in incubators, with minimal disturbance and risk, and exposes infants to a minimum of noise (equivalent to a quiet office setting). It has been used in more than 150 newborns at Cincinnati Children's and has already spawned new research projects.

Community/Patient Empowerment

This award, for an interactive nightly "sign out form" for families of hospitalized children, went to Christopher P. Landrigan, MD, MPH, research director of Boston Children's Hospital Inpatient Pediatrics Service and director of the Sleep and Patient Safety Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Alisa Khan, MD, a fellow with the Harvard-wide Pediatric Health Services Research Fellowship Program and the Academic Pediatric Hospitalist Fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital.

The family sign out tool mirrors Boston Children's I-PASS system for physician-to-physician patient "handoff," successfully piloted in 10 hospitals. It uses the same I-PASS mnemonic to ensure all clinical details are communicated: Illness Severity, Patient Summary, Action Items (the care plan), Situational Awareness (what to watch for) and Synthesis (for families to write questions to providers). The sign out is designed to empower families to play a more active, informed role in managing their children's health while in the hospital. With the award, the current paper form will become a scalable app that integrates with patients' electronic medical records.


Contact: Rob Graham
Boston Children's Hospital

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