Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Partnerships and medical education key focus for Abu Dhabi delegation

**Tania Paiva, Associate Director of Donor Relations, provided the following update from the most recent delegation's trip to Abu Dhabi.**

A delegation from Children's National arrived in Abu Dhabi late on Saturday evening to participate in several pediatric partnership and medical education meetings over the course of this week.

The Children's National medical team on this trip includes Jill G. Joseph, MD, PhD, Mary Ottolini, MD, and Ellie Hamburger, MD. Also participating in the partnership meetings is Ms. Pam King Sams, the executive vice president for development and chief operating officer for Children's Hospital Foundation at Children's National.

The team began their work with meetings at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) on Sunday where they met with counterparts, discussing progress on the seven ongoing partnership projects addressing top pediatric health needs in the emirate.

Children's National has partnered with HAAD on seven projects, including obesity/diabetes, asthma/allergy, cardiac newborn screening, injury prevention, developmental disabilities, child health, and fellowships.

On Monday, our team divided their time between partnership meetings at HAAD and visits to local healthcare facilities including Khalifa City A Ambulatory Center and Mafraq Hospital. At Mafraq, discussions focused on the continuum of care, medical education needs and possible opportunities for educational exchange.

Tuesday was another busy day, as some meetings continued at HAAD, and Drs. Ottolini and Hamburger traveled to the city of Al Ain (two hours away from the city of Abu Dhabi, but still in the emirate of Abu Dhabi) and visited Tawam and Al Ain Hospitals, continuing discussions about education.

Today, our delegation wrapped up their meetings in preparation for their departure Thursday morning. Drs. Ottolini and Hamburger had productive discussions around fellowships with physicians and residents at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, while Dr. Joseph visited Al Corniche hospital. Our delegation also met with representatives of Khalifa University and the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) this afternoon to further inform our fellowship project with Abu Dhabi.

Our doctors shared that spending time in Abu Dhabi and visiting the healthcare facilities has allowed them to see how similar healthcare needs and care are between our two countries. They have found the experience to be very helpful as they now have a better understanding as to how we can continue our partnership together to improve pediatric health.

--Tania E. Paiva, Associate Director, Donor Relations

Monday, September 19, 2011

All in a day’s work at the Sheikh Zayed Institute

Over the summer, the Institute had its biggest equipment delivery, both in terms of size and excitement, since opening the doors to the Institute in April. Joseph Devaney, PhD, led the team that installed the state-of-the-art PacBioRS, and offered his insight.

Last month the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation purchased the PacBioRS, an instrument that when running at its full capacity can sequence large portions of the human genome in under one hour. The technology is considered third generation DNA sequencing and there are currently only 25 of these instruments in the world. At the Institute, we hope to be able to generate entire human sequences in a single day using this system. Just to contrast, prior to this 3rd generation technology, the current technology takes anywhere from 24 to 72 DAYS to generate whole genome data.

Someone might ask, Why is it important to be able to sequence a person’s entire genome? It’s important for many reasons. First, knowing a person’s entire genetic sequence is critical for a lot of the research we do at Children’s National Medical Center. In addition, seeing large portions of someone’s genome could be used to guide patient care, and has been used in a handful of extraordinary cases already. In one such example, Bainbridge and colleagues report on fraternal twins with the movement disorder dopa-responsive dystonia, who were not experiencing much relief from the drug that is commonly used to treat this disorder, a synthetic form of dopamine. The children had their genomes sequenced and the scientists were surprised to find mutations in a novel gene that has control over dopamine and serotonin. The children were given a new medication in addition to their previous regiment. Within the first two weeks, their symptoms improved markedly. This technique is not appropriate for all cases, and is still prohibitively expensive for standard medical practice. However, it holds tremendous promise for cases where seeing the entire genetic sequence can provide insight into disease that it not otherwise available.

(Photo, right: Dr. Devaney with the PacBio during set up.)

There are more than 3.1 billion base pairs (bp), of the molecules A, C, T, and G, in a person’s genome. It would take about 9.5 years to read out loud (without stopping) the 3 billion bases in a person's genome sequence and if the 3 billion base pairs were spread out 1 mm apart, they would extend 3000 km (1864 miles) or about 7000 times the height of the Empire State Building. The PacBioRS can decipher the order of a person’s genetic code at a rate of 17,000 bases per hour per well and there are over 150,000 wells. The system uses fluorescence and an extremely fast camera that captures the data in a real time movie format. The massive amounts of data produced by this system require some hefty computing: this system can hold 12 terabytes of sequence data and has over 192 Gigs of RAM.

This powerful new instrument did not come without a struggle. It was delivered on a Saturday when the loading dock was clear, as it required the full effort of six people and a forklift. The system weighs close to 1900 lbs, but luckily our freight elevator can handle more than double that weight! The delivery from start to finish took four hours, which was just the beginning. Once in its new home, the set-up of the instrument took nine days and two service engineers.

The Sheikh Zayed Institute is fortunate to be one of the early adopters of this cutting edge technology. This means that our researchers can test the promise of this instrument within the context of real clinical research projects. We can now begin to integrate a whole host of research approaches for a global view of human health, what we refer to as systems biology, including genomics, transcriptomics, pharmacogenomics, microbiomics, and epigenomics. This technology could revolutionize clinical care and make the Sheikh Zayed Institute and Children’s National Medical Center, a leader in personalized medicine.

--Joseph Devaney, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children’s National and the Department of Integrated Systems Biology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Student Innovators make their mark at the Sheikh Zayed Institute

Guest post by Martha Houle, PhD, Education Director, the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation

On August 3rd, our first class of Student Innovators presented the results of their eight weeks of work to faculty and staff at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. Working closely with their mentors, they studied topics such as “Alloimmunization in Sickle Cell Disease” in the biological sciences, explored a new design for a “Laparoscopic Needle Driver for Pediatric Surgery,” and contributed to “Developing a Quantitative Measure of Craniosynostosis.”

(Photo, right: Student Innovators learn about biomedical innovation from Institute faculty)
These nine college and graduate students learned new engineering software and new laboratory techniques, and began to develop an understanding of the complexities of innovation by doing their first literature and patent searches. And, as Kay-Anne, a recent biology graduate from Howard University, put it, they learned that research means that “there are no right or wrong answers, just the process and journey taken to provide a feasible solution.”

The Student Innovators program was born out of a desire to provide a different kind of learning opportunity to young people—one that would inspire them to enter the field of biomedical innovation. In addition to engaging in hands-on work on defined research projects within the Sheikh Zayed Institute, the students participated in a curriculum that included training in brainstorming, teamwork, intellectual property, and presentation skills.

Daniel, a George Washington University medical student, told us at the end of the program how much he loved “how friendly, accepting, and eager to help everyone has been here at the Sheikh Zayed Institute. There has never been an opportunity out of reach or a closed door. The doctors were excited to further my interest and never hesitated to offer their experience.” Rachel, a biochemistry graduate student from the University of Tulsa, adds that, “This program exposed me to many interesting and unique experiences, including observing surgery, shadowing a radiologist, learning about engineering technology, and pursuing my own project in immunology.”

Usman, an engineering graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana, summarizes some of our goals for the program in its first year: “From the technical aspect, the program helped me sharpen my programming skills and understand some new concepts regarding applied engineering. Professionally, I have gained a lot because it enabled me to learn resource-handling, team-building, knowledge-sharing, and collaborating. The experience I gained here has provided a stepping stone for my overall career goals.”

It is difficult to say, however, who gained the most--the students or the Sheikh Zayed Institute. While many of the students thanked us for a program that helped them define the next steps in their studies and careers, we are also grateful to all of them for their energy and enthusiasm and for their focused and intelligent contributions to the success of Sheikh Zayed Institute’s mission.

--Martha Houle

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kurt Newman, MD, Begins as New CEO of Children’s National Medical Center

With a pledge of fostering connections and encouraging innovation to improve children’s health, Kurt Newman, MD, began as the new President and Chief Executive Officer at Children’s National Medical Center on Sept. 1. Dr. Newman was the driving force behind the vision and creation of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation in 2009. Since then, he has built a team of surgeon-researchers, opened new state-of-the-art facilities, and visited the United Arab Emirates several times to exchange information about the latest innovations in pediatric medicine.

Dr. Newman has been at Children’s National for 27 years and is the first physician to serve as CEO of Children’s National. Prior to this role, he was Senior Vice President for the Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Center for Surgical Care since 2003 and served as acting Vice President for the Sheikh Zayed Institute before Peter C.W. Kim, MD, was hired.

“I truly believe in Children’s National Medical Center and am committed to doing what’s right for kids and families, while continuing to push the boundaries of medicine and research through innovation and big thinking,” Dr. Newman said. “Just as we did with the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, we must develop big ideas, form new partnerships, and apply innovation to everything we do.”

Read the full announcement.