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Research programs

Clinical research teams

Some research programs at Children’s have dedicated Scientific Investigators, while others have research staff assigned to them. All research programs may receive research support services, starting from idea inception through project closure regardless of funding status.

Contact one of our Scientific Investigators or read about our departments with dedicated research staff listed below:

Cancer and Blood Disorders Program

Children’s is engaged in many types of cancer and blood disorders research, including investigator-initiated studies (led by a Children’s clinician), as well as externally sponsored multi-center trials, observational studies and registries. Children’s focuses on research that seeks to improve the day-to-day quality of life for children and teens, including minimizing effects of chemotherapy through physical therapy, finding new ways to improve physical function in children undergoing cancer treatment, and improving fatigue and related symptoms. In addition to many evidence-based treatment methods, we’re also recognized for our high levels of enrollment in clinical trials. In fact, nearly 90 percent of our eligible patients participate in clinical trials — placing us in the top 5 percent of Children’s Oncology Group institutions for participation. We have the largest clinical research staff in the region and we participate in more than 100 research studies. Children’s Minnesota has garnered national attention for its research in areas of clinical outcomes such as the collaborative discovery of the DICER1 gene by our hematology/oncology research team.

Cardiovascular and Critical Care Research Center

The Cardiovascular and Critical Care Research Center aims to improve the knowledge of cardiovascular and critical care medicine to improve patient care and outcomes. Since its inception in 2009, the group has grown to include over 20 investigators and 40 ongoing research projects ranging from investigator-initiated studies to sponsored multicenter clinical trials. Recent areas of research focus include pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric intensive care, cardiac catheterization, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and adult congenital heart disease.

  • Lead investigator: David Overman, MD
  • Clinical research manager: Heidi Vandervelden MS, CCRP

Cystic Fibrosis and Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia

Since 2007, Children’s Cystic Fibrosis (CF) research program has supported over forty research studies and treats over 150 patients with CF and 50 CF Related Metabolic Syndrome (CRMS) on an annual basis. Through the pursuit of investigator-initiated studies, increased statewide collaborative efforts, and as a member of the CF Foundation Therapeutic Development Network, we can provide patients with access to the latest advancements in the care of CF and exciting new trials working to correct the basic defect, improving nutrition outcomes, and treating infections. Our goal is to participate in the development of break through treatments that will dramatically improve survival and quality of life for patients with CF.

With the establishment of the Children’s Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD) progam, we are expanding our PCD research program including participating in the first ever clinical drug trial designed specifically for PCD patients.  Under the leadership of Bill Wheeler, MD and Anne Griffiths, MD, we intend to play a significant role in the development of new treatments and other research that benefits all involved in PCD research and care.

  • Research director: John McNamara, MD
  • Clinical research manager: Christine Benoit, CCRP

Diabetes and Endocrinology

Children’s Diabetes and Endocrinology Research program participates in studies that bring cutting-edge treatments for diabetes and endocrine disorders to our patients. Past and current areas of research focus include both federally-funded and industry-sponsored drug trials for patients with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Hypothalamic Obesity, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and Growth Hormone Deficiency; an efficacy review of alternative site Supprelin implantation (a practice pioneered by Children’s) in patients with Central Precocious Puberty; and a CDC quality assurance initiative for children who have been diagnosed with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) with the goal of developing quality assurance materials for early detection of CAH via molecular methods.

Emergency Medicine and Trauma

The Emergency Department research program under the direction of Dr. Kelly Bergmann aims to increase Children’s academic presence within the Pediatric Emergency Medicine community while maintaining ACS Level 1 trauma verification. Research personnel work to improve emergent care through exploration of decision algorithms, identification of novel predictors of illness, and patient/family education. Specific areas of interest for our investigators include trauma, diabetic emergencies, concussion, point-of-care (“bedside”) ultrasound, medical education, simulation, and obesity and adolescent health. Our research program is actively engaged in multicenter collaborative research, including involvement with the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Collaborative Research Committee (PEMCRC) and Pediatric Emergency Research Network (PERN). Our research team includes multiple research assistants staffing the two primary emergency department campuses each day, 3 project managers, and a clinical research manager.

Genetics and Genomics

The genetics research program is comprised of a highly qualified group of clinician scientists with many years of research experience, with extensive contribution from genetic nurse practitioners and genetic counselors. The group is further supported by a specialty nurse, a registered nutritionist and a clinical research coordinator.

The goals of the genetics and metabolic research program(s) include identifying patients with rare genetic disorders or complex clinical presentations through genetic screening, targeted mutation testing as well as comprehensive genomic analysis (exome and genome sequencing). Understanding the patient’s specific genetic diagnosis often provides a better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of a disorder. It may prevent unnecessary complications and identify novel approaches to more effective treatment(s). Early diagnosis (in the newborn period) of patients with inborn errors of metabolism may prevent acute decompensation and help improve clinical outcomes. It also allows for the implementation of new treatment protocols and clinical trials of therapeutic drugs.

To improve knowledge about genetic diseases, we participate in several clinical disease registry studies, including selected lysosomal storage diseases and other rare genetic disorders. We are also partnering with several other institutions (children’s hospitals) in the clinical implementation of genomic medicine in the routine care of our pediatric patients. The clinical translation of novel genomic diagnostic tools and the application of the resulting genomic data will greatly benefit the patient’s providers in their clinical decision making ability and the patients (and their families) in improving their health and clinical outcomes.

Midwest Fetal Care Center

Midwest Fetal Care Center (MWFCC), a collaboration between Children’s Minnesota and Allina Health, is committed to research aiming to improve the outcomes for moms and babies facing high-risk pregnancies.  The Center is recognized as an advanced fetal center, one of only a few in North America, and the first in the Upper Midwest.

We are a part of the North American Fetal Therapy Network (NAFTNet), an association of medical centers with proven expertise in fetal surgery and other fetal care services. One of the goals of NAFTNet is to foster collaborative research in fetal medicine through multi-center participation in the association’s data registries. Our fetal specialists are active in national fetal therapy associations and have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Members of our multidisciplinary care team regularly generate national research abstracts related to the clinical protocols and algorithms that we create.

One of the goals of the program is to track the short and long-term clinical outcomes of mothers and their babies, which is critical to measuring the impact of early fetal intervention.

Recent areas of research include: abdominal cystic masses, bowel dilation, congenital lung malformations, congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), fetal myelomeningocele repair (fMMC), gastroschisis, single ventricle disease, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS).

In addition to the MWFCC clinical research, our research director, Joseph Lillegard, MD, PhD, leads a gene therapy research lab at Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with Children’s Minnesota, to address gene therapy correction options for children with metabolic liver diseases.

Neonatal Research Program

Children’s dedicated neonatologists are leaders in clinical expertise at the region’s largest neonatal program with 171 beds between the Minneapolis and St Paul Campuses and special care nursery. In addition to dedicating themselves to treating neonates with their clinical expertise, they have provided leadership in research by acting as Principal Investigators for many National Institute of Health funded, multi-site, randomized clinical trials. Since the 1970s, we have been advancing research and respiratory knowledge. Children’s was a test site for exogenous surfactant in the late 80s. Some significant innovations in neonatal care tested at Children’s prior to becoming standards of practice include exogenous surfactant, hydrocortisone therapy, and mild systemic hypothermia. Children’s participated in a 4 year randomized clinical trial to evaluate MSH therapy using the head cooling approach. Recent studies have addressed treatment modalities that will treat respiratory distress syndrome, decrease the incidence of chronic lung disease, and identify prenatal predictors of outcomes to improve long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes and clinical and laboratory research of neonatal ventilation strategies. In addition to acting as Principal Investigators, team members publish research through peer-reviewed journals, books and medical conferences and serve as reviewers for esteemed journals. The Minneapolis Campus also participates in research as part of The Mother Baby Center, a partnership between Children’s Minnesota and Abbott Northwestern Hospital, was formed in 2013. Mother Baby Outcomes research seeks to empower physicians and patients with valuable information in making treatment decisions.

Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine

Under the direction of Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD, FAAP, the Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine research program aims to improve the lives of current and future patients by developing and collaborating in high quality, methodologically diverse, interdisciplinary research and quality improvement efforts in the following areas:

  • Chronic, acute and procedural pain
  • Palliative, hospice and home care
  • Integrative medicine

Recent research studies include — but are not limited to:

Clinical trials comparing pain management medications following tonsillectomy; a NIH/NCI-funded five-year national program to provide Education in Palliative and End-of-Life Care (EPEC-Pediatrics) for healthcare providers; interviews with parents of children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions around stress and coping; cost of palliative care studies; surveys of bereaved parents and siblings; a multi-site initiative to promote and foster change around pain management in pediatric inpatients, with support from the MAYDAY Fund; hospital-wide quality improvement projects to minimize pain through our Children’s Comfort Promise initiative.