About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 18, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 42
Hartwell Awards Support Innovative Children's Health Research

Daniel P. Judge, recipient of a Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award for his work on ARVD, a major cause of sudden cardiac death in youngsters.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

By Kenna L. Lowe
Development and Alumni Relations

Daniel P. Judge, an assistant professor of cardiology in the School of Medicine, recently won a competitive Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award to support work he hopes will decrease the incidence of sudden cardiac death in youngsters. The Hartwell Foundation award provides $300,000 in direct costs over three years.

As many as 150 apparently healthy young people in the United States die suddenly every year from cardiac arrest, leaving families and entire communities devastated. The cause in the majority of cases, particularly among athletes, is arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, an inherited structural deficiency of the heart that results in failure to adequately pump blood.

"Tragically, the first manifestation of ARVD often is sudden death," said Judge, who aims to identify and alter the sequence of events leading up to ARVD using a novel strain of mice he is developing. This work will contribute to the identification of new therapies to delay — or even prevent — the onset of the disease.

"Children with ARVD basically have only one treatment option, and that is electric shock when their heartbeat rhythm is disturbed," Judge said. "My research, if successful, will benefit children with existing ARVD and importantly, children with a genetic predisposition to this condition who have not yet shown any symptoms."

The Hartwell Foundation funds early-stage, innovative and cutting-edge biomedical research that will benefit U.S. children and has not yet qualified for significant funding from outside sources.

Foundation president Frederick Dombrose said, "Dr. Judge will exploit insights gained in his mouse model of ARVD as a guide to treatment and intervention, and possibly even prevention. We understand that his research plan is not a sure thing. But if he's successful, it will make a tremendous difference for young people with ARVD."

Said Judge, "The Hartwell funding couldn't have come at a better time for me, at a time when the rate of NIH funding is decreasing." He is one of eight members of the Johns Hopkins Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia Program, the largest center for the study of ARVD in the United States.

The Hartwell Foundation, for the third consecutive year, has invited Johns Hopkins to nominate four individuals for the annual Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award competition (see below), which is open to institutions named to the foundation's list of Top 10 Centers of Biomedical Research. The first Hartwell Research Award recipient at Johns Hopkins, Ken M. Brady, assistant professor in Pediatric Anesthesiology at the School of Medicine, is working to improve treatment of brain trauma in children.

Dombrose called the research proposals from Brady and Judge "very compelling." He said, "In both cases, it was easy to see how their individual success could translate to helping kids."

All institutions that fully participate in the Research Awards competition also receive $100,000 in direct costs over two years for a Hartwell Fellowship to be awarded to a postdoctoral candidate of their choice, to support further specialized training.

Adam Gower, a Hartwell Fellow, who is studying the molecular basis of pediatric interstitial lung disease.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

In 2007, Johns Hopkins selected Adam Gower, a fellow in the Eudowood Division of Pediatric Respiratory Sciences, as the Hartwell Fellow.

Gower is studying the molecular basis of pediatric interstitial lung disease, a mixed group of disorders that can lead to scarring and destruction of lung tissue. Their causes are not well understood, and patients with pediatric ILD can be quite difficult to diagnose. Often a major operation is needed to obtain and examine a piece of the patient's lung in order to make the diagnosis, and there are few effective therapies.

Gower's work has the potential to provide a rapid, noninvasive means of specific diagnosis, as well as to predict whether other family members of affected children are at risk for developing lung disease.

"The Hartwell Fellowship is a huge boost to me at this early, yet important, stage in my career," Gower said.

He is using the funds to characterize and categorize genetic variants that occur in patients with interstitial lung disease. He said he hopes that his work ultimately will provide patients and their families more accurate information about prognosis and potential new treatments.

Gower's mentor, pediatrics professor Lawrence Nogee, said, "Adam is tackling an important question, as his work has real potential for developing sorely needed diagnostic tests and novel treatments for the group of disorders he is studying."

Judge's and Gower's work, Dombrose said, is the type of research the Hartwell Foundation strives to support. "We seek to inspire innovation and achievement by providing an opportunity for those we support to make a difference," he said.


Applying for 2008 Grants

Johns Hopkins has again been invited to nominate candidates for the Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award and to select a Hartwell Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient.

The Provost's Office is seeking applications by Sept. 15 for consideration by an internal peer review committee for the 2008 awards. For specifics, see

The Hartwell Foundation's Web site is at


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |