Following five years of great success, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Center of Translational Pediatric Research (CTPR) has been awarded $11.5 million in Phase II funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The center uses a cutting-edge systems biology approach, turning “Big Data” into usable information on how diseases like cancer form in children.
“We believe that research performed in this center will not only generate scientific knowledge and new technologies for studying disease formation but also will impact future clinical care by leading to the discovery of new treatment strategies translatable to the pediatric population,” Alan Tackett, Ph.D., associate director for basic research at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI) and director of the CTPR, said.
The NIH funding is part of a program called the Institutional Development Awards, meant to create world-class research environments, particularly in states that historically have received little NIH funding. The fact that Phase II funding has been provided shows that the NIH believes that the CTPR is set to become one of the nation’s premier sites for pediatric translational research. Should its success continue, the program will provide a total of 15 years-worth of funding. The CTPR has also received funding from a variety of other organizations, including the USDA, American Heart Association, Department of Defense and American Cancer Society.
“During the past five years, we supported 13 junior faculty who received approximately $22 million of federal funding, demonstrating our commitment to, and progress towards, becoming a self-sustaining research center,” Tackett said. “Our successes in Phase I have set the stage for substantial growth to create a self-sustaining research center focusing on developing the next generation of therapies to treat diseases impacting children.”
Systems biology is a holistic approach to biology that focuses on the complex interactions between biological systems. Doing that effectively requires advanced mathematical and computational modeling to turn “bioinformatics,” vast quantities of biological information like genome mapping, into something that can be used for research. Trying to process that much raw data can be a major bottleneck, so the CTPR provides cutting-edge resources for data analysis and integration, which allows better and faster research into diseases that affect children.