December 2016/January 2017

Looking Ahead to Having a Bigger Impact and Greater Success

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The new year often brings great optimism and hope, as we look to the promise and potential it brings, and to the experiences that will shape us individually, professionally, and organizationally.

Reflecting upon the past year at the CHOP Research Institute, and looking at our plans moving forward, we have a lot to be excited about. The Institute recently completed its strategic planning process, which involved taking a close look at the Institute’s programs and organizational strengths, and making honest assessments of what to improve upon, where the Institute wants to go, and how to get there.

What will guide CHOP Research in the coming year and beyond? What is the direction of the institution, and what are the driving factors and goals that will move the CHOP Research Institute forward?

It comes down to two things: impact and success.

On the surface, that may seem simple and obvious. After all, the Institute’s mission has always been one that focuses on making an impact on the health and well-being of children, and that has historically been used as a marker of our success. But here those terms refer to something deeper — a concentrated effort to support research programs and initiatives that have both a high impact on the lives of children as well as a high likelihood of success.

The Institute’s experiences with its gene therapy, genomics, and cancer programs are examples of those with a high impact and — as demonstrated over time — a high likelihood of success.

Looking ahead, the Institute has identified four big areas of research that have the potential to have a similar trajectory in terms of impact and success. Those four areas aim to:

  • Understand the causes and develop cures for rare and complex diseases
  • Advance CHOP’s leadership in novel therapeutics and device development
  • Innovate in research along the fetal-adult continuum, also known as lifespan research
  • Develop breakthrough precision health research

The Institute’s effort with respect to rare and complex diseases will focus on developing a basic science recruitment program for the next several years in the targeted areas of computational and quantitative biology, epigenetics/epigenomics, bioenergetics, metabolomics, and developmental and cell biology. CHOP Research will also fortify its partnership with Penn’s basic science departments and invest in our “big data” and quantitative capabilities.

Novel therapeutics present several exciting opportunities for the CHOP Research Institute. The most promising area of potential therapies to emerge from CHOP rests with biologic therapeutics, and our future success will focus on more basic science capabilities. The Institute will also place heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship and the development of pediatric drugs and devices. CHOP is positioned to become the international leader in pediatric devices and can serve as the place for first-in-pediatrics drug trials.

The Institute’s lifespan research initiative will have a multidisciplinary research approach that links pediatric and adult groups through clinical partnerships. This will involve working with various institutions, which will have designated approaches to developing and integrating various diverse datasets that span the continuum from genetic to healthcare utilization. The aim with this program is to prevent adult diseases through interventions in children and younger adolescents before symptoms emerge. In addition, the lifespan research will aim to provide better long-term outcomes for children living with disease.

The fourth aim, on precision health, focuses on getting the right preventive or therapeutic intervention to the right person at the right place and time. To achieve this, the CHOP Research Institute will partner with economists, engineers, public health researchers, and mathematicians. It will also develop a pediatric knowledge network to support lifespan and precision health studies and trials, and establish new core programs — like community-based research and mHealth/digital health research — to support precision health research.

Looking at these ambitious goals, it is clear the CHOP Research Institute is ushering in a new era of research, one that facilitates research and innovation breakthroughs while enabling CHOP to function as a high-performing Research Institute. With continued support and dedication from our investigators, staff and colleagues, the CHOP Research Institute will help solve the most challenging problems in child health — and what tremendous hope and excitement that brings!

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