$12 million grant focuses on children’s health

Sanford Research renews grant that supports center of research excellence

By: Jacqueline Palfy .

Dr. Michelle Baack in her Sanford Research lab
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. –- A grant from the National Institutes of Health that has helped Sanford Research recruit and support scientists has been renewed.

The initial $12 million Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) grant was used over the past five years to establish and support the development of the Center for Pediatric Research, a research group focused on childhood diseases. The renewal provides another five years of support, and the team will further develop the center, with a focus on how stem cells contribute to pediatric diseases.

But more than the science of the grant is the opportunity for workforce development in the Upper Midwest, says David Pearce, Ph.D., president of innovation and research at Sanford Health and leader of the Center for Pediatric Research.

“This Center allow researchers to develop and lead their own labs, and this money stays in South Dakota,” Pearce says. The grant will fund up to five different labs at any given time, with the hope of making them self-sustaining. Sanford Research has graduated several researchers from the program who now run their own independently funded research programs at Sanford Research.

This year, Michelle Baack, M.D., a neonatologist at Sanford Health and an assistant scientist at Sanford Research, is one of the supported researchers.

“It’s a great opportunity to advance our science and to do research that will matter to our patients,” Baack says. “I have no doubt that the resources, mentorship and core services will lead to additional independently funded research to advance pediatric research”

The $12 million NIH-funded CoBRE grant focuses on providing  support and mentorship for scientists who are working to understand basic biology of human development in a disease-based model or as it relates to the manifestation of clinical abnormalities that present during childhood.

“This grant is reputation-building,” Pearce says. Sanford Research has three of these grants, the maximum any institution can receive. “It’s an investment in people and the long-term stability of continued research. Our growth is through national credibility and grants like this from the NIH.”

After 10 years of CoBRE support, centers are expected to be established enough to compete for other sources of research funding. Sanford Research received the first installment of this grant five years ago. Sanford Research has two other CoBRE grants as well –- one for the Center for Population Health Research and one for the Center for Cancer Biology Research.

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