Two partners — one mere blocks away, the other on another continent — are helping Drexel researchers tackle the biggest health problems faced by the littlest patients.
The summer of 2014 saw the first institutional funding for pediatric research "dream teams" drawn from Drexel, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The teams arose out of a symposium held in Philadelphia in January 2014, just months after the three institutions' chief executives signed a partnership agreement.
"Two to three thousand children are born each year with significant malformations of their heart chambers, and there are very few if any therapeutic options available for them except a heart transplant," says Dr. Amy Throckmorton, whose team is investigating a new type of mechanical circulatory support — essentially a blood pump — for these children.
"My U.S.-based research team now has this international partnership, and with that comes research experience and new resources, and it's a win-win."
In particular, Throckmorton's pump could represent a significant improvement in treatment for babies born with heart defects so severe they have only one functioning ventricle — nearly 1,000 annually in the United States alone, with a 10-year survival rate that may be as low as 60 percent.
Throckmorton, who directs the BioCirc Research Laboratory in Drexel's School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, leads a team that includes Drexel colleagues from the College of Medicine, four CHOP researchers and a Hebrew University investigator, plus a colleague at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center and four corporate partners.
The blood pump team is one of two to receive funding so far, with several more in the pipeline.