INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University School of Medicine has opened a new pediatric research facility that provides a family-friendly environment while dramatically increasing resources for scientists working to improve medical care for the children of Indiana and beyond.
In its 18,500 square feet of space, the Children’s Clinical Research Center includes both laboratories and an adjoining patient care area where research physicians can meet with their young patients and their families in an environment meant to be both efficient and comfortable.
The center, the only such facility in Indiana, is housed in Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in an area that previously housed outdated research labs no longer in use. The three-year renovation transforming it into the new center was funded by an $8.5 million economic stimulus grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in April 2010. The grant was one of $1 billion in awards announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins at a news conference at the IU School of Medicine.
At any given time IU physician researchers at Riley Hospital are conducting about 80 clinical trials to test new medicines and treatments for children. Approximately 2,500 new participants joined those pediatric clinical trials in 2012, and there are about 6,500 participants in Riley-based trials at any given time. The Children’s Clinical Research Center will provide a home base for most of those trials.
Until now, researchers meeting with children and their families needed to either work such visits in among the busy outpatient clinic areas at Riley, or at a clinical research facility at IU Health University Hospital that was designed with adults, not children, in mind.
“This facility allows us to do dedicated research visits much more efficiently and conveniently for children and their parents,” said Scott C. Denne, M.D., director of the center and professor of pediatrics.
Over time, the facility should enable pediatric researchers to increase the number of clinical trials and participants and in turn, speed the delivery of new treatments and drugs to children, said Dr. Denne, associate chair for clinical and translational research in the IU Department of Pediatrics.
Having a dedicated children’s research facility will also make pediatric investigators here more competitive as they seek support from government and private sources of research funding, he said.
The patient exam and meeting rooms, family waiting and play areas were designed and lighted to provide a soothing estuary theme based on Puget Sound, the large collection of waterways from the Pacific Ocean that reach down to Seattle, Wash.
In a recent survey, more than 90 percent of parents of Riley patients agreed with the statement that research is an important mission for the hospital, and more than 60 percent said that all Riley patients should have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.
About 2,000 visits by trial participants and their families are expected in the first full year of operation, but the center can accommodate thousands more.
Pediatric clinical trials currently underway at Riley cover a broad range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, heart problems, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, metabolic disorders and others.
Pediatric clinical research at IU has led to improved treatments for children in a broad range of areas. Examples in recent years include:
— The first effective treatment for the tumors of a genetic disorder, neurofibromatosis type 1
— Toddlers’ use of insulin pumps once reserved for older patients
— Use of cooling techniques to prevent brain injury in newborns after difficult births
— A drug newly approved to treat children with hepatitis
The Children’s Clinical Research Center is a facility of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, a statewide collaboration of Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, as well as public and private partnerships, which facilitates the translation of scientific discoveries in the lab into clinical trials and new patient treatments.