Norton grants $1.25 million for UofL research

Studies aim to improve care and hope to find cures

As partners in providing specialized care to the children of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, Norton Healthcare has granted $1.25 million to the University of Louisville to support research initiatives related to a host of pediatric subspecialties.

Areas receiving grants are pediatric cardiac regenerative medicine, pediatric surgery research, the Norton Charities Pediatric Clinical Trials Unit, the UofL Autism Center at Norton Charities, the Child and Adolescent Health Research Design and Support Unit, and the Norton Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

“Research is vital to advancing the care we, as partners, can provide to children,” said Steven T. Hester, M.D., MBA, system senior vice president and chief medical officer, Norton Healthcare. “The pediatric specialists at the University of Louisville are doing work that can help us provide even better care and, hopefully, cures.”

“We appreciate the funding provided by Norton Healthcare to further our work in understanding and ultimately curing diseases and conditions that affect children,” said Gregory C. Postel, M.D., interim executive vice president for health affairs, University of Louisville. “At UofL, we have set an ambitious yet achievable agenda in pediatric research that will advance medical knowledge and provide novel and innovative treatments for the children of Kentuckiana and beyond.”

“We see firsthand the benefits that research provides to children,” said Thomas D. Kmetz, division president, Women’s and Children’s Services and Norton Children’s Hospital. “Supporting this research agenda is incredibly important not just to children, but also in continuing to attract additional pediatric specialists to Louisville.”

The $1.25 million provides one year of funding to the six research areas:

$100,000 for pediatric cardiac regenerative medicine, led by Bradley B. Keller, M.D., for research focusing on identifying the biomechanical origins of congenital heart disease and the development of implantable engineered cardiac tissues for repair and restoration using patient-derived human pluripotent stem cells. The goal of these studies is to repair and regenerate damaged heart muscle as an alternative to cardiac transplantation.

$100,000 for the pediatric surgery research lab, led by Mary E. Fallat, M.D., to support research in surgical techniques and outcomes, trauma practices and necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects mostly the intestine of premature infants where the wall of the intestine is invaded by bacteria that cause local infection and inflammation that can ultimately destroy the bowel wall. Research in this area directly impacts the care children and neonates receive when they need surgical services.

$100,000 for the Norton Charities Pediatric Clinical Research Unit, led by Janice E. Sullivan, M.D., to support the unit’s medication, quality improvement and device clinical trials. The goal of this unit is to improve health care provided to children through development of new or improved treatment practices and evaluation and approval of medical devices or medications for children.

$250,000 for the UofL Autism Center at Norton Charities led by Gregory N. Barnes, M.D., Ph.D., to support the Precision Medicine Initiative in Autism Spectrum Disorders. The goal of this study is to use a child’s DNA to develop individualized treatment approaches to better restore the function of neural circuits in the brain, thereby improving behavior and cognitive skills.

$300,000 for the Child and Adolescent Health Research Design and Support Unit led by Charles R. Woods Jr., M.D., to support research projects around overprescribing of psychiatric medications and antimicrobial agents in children, as well as improving data availability to frontline state workers in the foster care system. The goal of this research unit is to improve the effectiveness, quality, safety and delivery of health care and prevention/health promotion services to children.

“Research is integral to our quadruple mission, along with education, patient care and community engagement,” said Gerard P. Rabalais, M.D., the Billy F. Andrews Endowed Chair in Pediatrics. “The funding we are announcing today is appreciated for its contribution to our ability to develop and maintain an effective body of research.”

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