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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 6, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 41
Hartwell Foundation Supports Children's Health Research

Jennifer Lee and Kenneth Brady are working to develop tools that physicians can use to more effectively treat children who have suffered traumatic head injury.
Photo by Will Kirk/HIPS

By Margaret Hindman
Special to The Gazette

Two Johns Hopkins physicians in Pediatric Anesthesiology and Pediatric Critical Care are among the first recipients of grants from the Hartwell Foundation to support innovative, early-stage biomedical research that will benefit children. Kenneth Brady, assistant professor, won a $300,000 Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award, and postdoctoral fellow Jennifer Lee was named a Hartwell Fellow and awarded $100,000.

Brady and Lee are working together to develop new tools that physicians can use to more effectively treat infants and children who have suffered traumatic head injury. Not only is serious head injury the leading cause of death in children, many youngsters who survive suffer disabilities because of secondary injury to the brain caused by swelling. "Manipulating cerebral blood flow to meet, but not exceed, the metabolic demands of the brain is a cornerstone in efforts to create an optimal environment for healing of the injured brain," Brady said. "Poor understanding of vascular autoregulation in the pediatric brain is arguably the most glaring deficit in the care of children with acute neurologic injury."

"This is research that will have a huge impact on children," Lee said, explaining that current treatment guidelines for children are based on research done with adults.

The researchers' goal is to develop child-specific guidelines and, thereby, improve outcomes for infants and children. Given the increasing challenge of obtaining federal funding, especially for new initiatives by younger investigators, this research would not have been possible without the Hartwell Foundation's support, they said. "When we started this project, it was uncharted territory. "We didn't have enough data to take a proposal to NIH," Brady said.

The Hartwell Foundation funding came at a critical juncture, enabling the researchers to build in preliminary findings and apply their lab research to the clinical setting. "It is an extraordinary opportunity," Lee said.

The Hartwell Foundation, established by California businessman Lawrence Smead, invited only 10 U.S. research universities to participate in its inaugural grant competition. Smead is the founder and chief executive officer of SASCO, the largest privately held electrical and data contractor in the nation.

The inaugural Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Awards provide support to 12 researchers at nine institutions. Each invited university held an internal and open competition of its own design that met foundation guidelines, and nominated the best proposals from its faculty and research staff. All nominees participated in personal interviews, which included a presentation of their proposed research. A unique feature of the award is that each Hartwell Investigator receives a video conferencing system to enhance communication with the foundation and to encourage collaboration with other researchers.

Each participating institution also received a Hartwell Fellowship, awarded to one postdoctoral candidate of its choice and designed to enable the recipient to achieve advanced professional training in biomedical research.

In making its selections for the Individual Biomedical Research Awards, Hartwell President Frederick Dombrose said the foundation took into account the institution's commitment to support the investigator, plans for collaboration with other researchers on the proposed project and the potential for rapid translation of the research results to clinical applications that would benefit young patients.

"The Hartwell Foundation believes that philanthropy is a serious responsibility and that wealth appropriately used is an essential mechanism for improving the state of mankind," Dombrose said. "We are honored to provide financial support to these outstanding researchers."


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