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Genetics Researcher at Children's Hospital Selected as Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Date:1/30/2008

Dr. Vivian Cheung Chosen on Basis of Patient-Oriented Research

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Vivian Cheung, M.D., a pediatric neurologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. Following a nationwide competition in 2007, Cheung was one of 15 physician-scientists selected recently by the prestigious research organization.

Like all those chosen, Dr. Cheung focuses on translating research discoveries into improved medical treatments.

"We are extremely pleased and proud of the fact that one of our pediatricians was honored by one of the world's leading biomedical research institutions," said Philip R. Johnson, M.D., chief scientific officer and senior vice president of Children's Hospital. "This appointment recognizes Dr. Cheung's accomplishments in advancing genetic discovery."

Cheung investigates how the sequence of DNA units in a person's chromosomes affects that person's susceptibility to disease. She uses microarray technology to rapidly measure how strongly genes are expressed within cells. By determining how gene expression changes in response to drugs and other treatments, she discovers how each patient's DNA variations are associated with the effectiveness of their disease treatments.

Her goal is to help physicians predict how a patient will respond to a given drug or treatment, based on the patient's particular genetic profile. Ultimately, providing refined genetic tools may remove some of the guesswork in making treatment decisions and in providing the best preventive and therapeutic care.

Trained in neurology, Cheung has a specific interest in a neurogenetic disease called ataxia telangiectasia, which affects movement, muscle control, the immune system and susceptibility to cancer. Because different children may react very differently to their treatments, her research aims to customize treatment to a patient's genetic profile, thus minimizing side effects and providing maximum benefits. Cheung's studies could be applied to a broad range of common and uncommon diseases, in using genetic tools to eventually routinely guide physicians and patients to better treatments.

As a pediatrician at Children's Hospital, Cheung is continuing to work at the Hospital and has become an employee of HHMI, which provides a research budget and funding for laboratory space. Cheung remains an associate professor of Pediatrics and Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

After earning her M.D. degree from Tufts University School of Medicine, Cheung completed her residency at the UCLA Medical Center, before coming to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 1996. She holds the William Wikoff Smith Endowed Chair in Pediatric Genomic Research at Children's Hospital, where she leads an NIH-funded laboratory.

About the Howard Hughes Medical Institute: HHMI is one of the world's largest philanthropies, with laboratories across the United States and grants programs throughout the world. The Institute is a nonprofit medical research organization that employs hundreds of leading biomedical scientists working at the forefront of their fields. In addition, through its grants program and other activities, HHMI is helping to enhance science education at all levels and maintain the vigor of biomedical science worldwide. HHMI's endowment at the end of the 2006 fiscal year was approximately $16.3 billion.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.chop.edu.


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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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