New Pediatric Research Institute Launched by Children's Medical Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center

March 05, 2012

Children’s Medical Center is partnering with UT Southwestern Medical Center to establish a unique $150 million venture that will bring together the finest scientists to pursue research with the potential to change scientific fields, as well as the way disease is treated in children and adults.

The Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern will focus on the discovery of transformative advances related to the understanding and treatment of cancer, birth defects and metabolic diseases. The institute will combine the comprehensive clinical expertise of Children’s Medical Center Dallas, a nationally ranked pediatric hospital system, and UT Southwestern, an internationally recognized center for medical research.

Children’s has committed to raise $150 million in endowment to support the new initiative, and as part of the institute’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, March 6, will announce a $10 million gift – the second-largest ever made to Children’s Medical Center. The gift, from the Hamon Charitable Foundation, will establish an endowment to support the Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Sean Morrison, Ph.D., internationally acclaimed for his groundbreaking stem cell research, has been named founding director of the institute. In recognition of this gift, Dr. Morrison’s laboratory at the institute will be named the Hamon Laboratory for Stem Cell and Cancer Biology.

“The Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern is poised to lead the way in a new era of scientific discovery,” said Christopher J. Durovich, president and chief executive officer of Children’s. “This will make treatments more effective and delivery of care more efficient. Ultimately, we will push the frontiers of pediatric medicine, help reduce suffering and save lives, a goal of Children’s for nearly 100 years.”

“The goals of the institute align with our focus on translating scientific advances into outstanding patient care,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern. “We look forward to this enhanced collaboration between UT Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center.”

Under Dr. Morrison’s leadership, the institute is focusing on research at the interface of stem cell biology, cancer, and metabolism that has the potential to reveal new strategies for treating disease.

“Our goal is to discover the therapies of tomorrow,” Dr. Morrison said. “We will invest in research to illuminate the biological basis for disease by integrating interdisciplinary groups of scientists and physicians who combine skills that are rarely found in a single laboratory.
“When we make discoveries that have the potential to improve the treatment of patients, we will invest in clinical research to deliver the benefits of the science to patients. Our ultimate goal is to cure somebody who would not be cured otherwise.”

The institute currently has more than 30 scientists in two laboratories. It eventually will include 150 scientists in 15 laboratories led by UT Southwestern faculty members.

The Dean Foods Foundation last summer also committed to a gift of $1.25 million to help establish CRI.

CRI’s potential for groundbreaking research is evidenced by an article published in Jan. 26 edition of Nature. It told how investigators, led by Dr. Morrison, identified the environment in which blood-forming stem cells are maintained within the body, an important step toward increasing the safety and effectiveness of bone-marrow transplantation. “Although scientists have searched for decades, this is the first study to reveal the cells that are functionally responsible for maintaining blood-forming stem cells in the body,” said Dr. Morrison, senior author of the study. “This discovery will lead to the identification of the mechanisms by which cells in the blood-forming system promote stem cell maintenance and tissue repair.”

The institute is located at 6000 Harry Hines Boulevard, on the UT Southwestern campus. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held tomorrow, March 6, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. Media is invited to attend.

About Dr. Morrison:

Dr. Morrison holds the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and is a professor of Pediatrics. He also is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He obtained his B.Sc. in biology and chemistry from Dalhousie University (1991), then completed a Ph.D. in immunology at Stanford University (1996) and a postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology at Caltech (1999).

From 1999 to 2011, he was a Professor at the University of Michigan, where he directed the Center for Stem Cell Biology. Dr. Morrison was a Searle Scholar (2000-2003), was named to Technology Review Magazine's list of 100 young innovators (2002), received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2003), the International Society for Hematology and Stem Cell's McCulloch and Till Award (2007) the American Association of Anatomists Harland Mossman Award (2008), and a MERIT Award from the National Institute on Aging. His laboratory works at the interface of stem cell biology and cancer, studying the mechanisms that regulate the function of adult stem cells and the ways in which those mechanisms are hijacked by cancer cells to generate tumors.

About Children’s Medical Center

The Children's Medical Center pediatric healthcare system devotes itself solely to caring for the complex medical needs of children through our commitment to quality care, research and innovation, education and advocacy and excellence and accountability. With more than 5,400 employees and more than 1,000 physicians on the medical staff, the hospital is consistently ranked among the nation’s top hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. With Magnet designation, its nursing services rank in the top 5 percent of the nation’s hospitals for nursing excellence. Through its academic affiliation with UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the world’s most prolific research institutions, the Children's medical staff’s discoveries are instrumental in developing treatments, therapies, and greater understanding of pediatric diseases. Children’s, which started as an outdoor baby camp in 1913, has grown into a 559-bed, private, not-for-profit hospital system with two full-service campuses and 10 outpatient sites, and is the fifth-largest pediatric healthcare provider in the country. Many of the system’s more than 50 specialty programs have received national and international recognition.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and medical education. Its faculty has many distinguished members, including five who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. Numbering more than 2,600, the faculty is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care