Center for Host Defense, Inflammation, and Lung Disease

Mission

The Department of Pediatrics wishes to develop a new research center, namely the Center for Host defense, Inflammation, and Lung Disease (CHILD) Research, that would primarily benefit children.  Penn State CHILD Research is a collaborative alliance of basic science and clinical investigators who have united to focus on the comprehensive study of the host defense response that occurs in pulmonary and non-pulmonary disease processes.

Focus

The Center will focus on innovative and collaborative partnerships between members of the Center, those throughout the entire Penn State University system, and scientists and clinicians worldwide in translational and alternative medicine research. There is a great need to bridge the gap between basic science and clinical medicine as well as a need to subject alternative medical treatment to the rigor of the traditional scientific investigation. By bringing together interested individuals with different clinical medicine expertise from different Divisions within the Department of Pediatrics, as well as from other departments who are connected via their common interest on the role of the host defense response in health and disease, we expect to create a synergy and cross fertilization that cannot be achieved by casual collegial contact. These together will help identify clinically relevant problems to address at the basic science level and expedite basic science findings to be translated into clinical therapies.

The Center is formulated to serve the translational research needs in the field of Pediatrics, and as such is supported by the Department of Pediatrics. However, we expect as the Center and the synergy among the founding members gets established, and the resulting research projects and funding are on track, individuals from more departments, campuses, and other institutions will become involved in collaborative endeavors. This will place the Center and the institution in prime position to apply for and receive further external funds by demonstrating a successful track record of translational research, which is presently the main focus of The National Institutes of Health and other government and private funding sources. Many funding steams are presently earmarked for research programs which can identify a clinical problem, develop a technique or therapy for that problem in the basic science lab, and then quickly translate those basic science findings back to the bedside. The goals of the Center will be to do just that.

Several of the investigators involved have a long-standing interest in lung biology and disease.  Their past studies in these areas have demonstrated the importance of host defense processes, including inflammation, and have explored the importance of a locally-produced, developmentally-regulated protein molecule in regulating these processes.  While many of the original studies dealt with neonatal and perinatal life, the knowledge gained has led to a better understanding of lung disease pathophysiology throughout life.  The resulting paradigm has proven to be useful in understanding the biology of other organ systems and diseases, and has been the basis for collaborative interaction with other investigators who will be active members of the Center.

Through these affiliations, investigators will focus on conducting scientific research in the fields of host defense and inflammation, with the goal of bridging the broad expanse that presently exists between basic science discoveries and the implementation of these advances into clinical practice.  Dr. Floros, the Director of the Center, has been an active participant in surfactant research for more than 20 years.  Study of pulmonary surfactant, and its rapid transition from the laboratory to a widely-used life-saving therapy for premature infants, is considered one of the success stories of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and a model for translational research. Dr. Thomas, a member of the Center Steering Committee, has been involved in extending the use of this breakthrough therapy to populations outside of the neonatal period. He has been involved in large-scale, multi-center clinical trials of surfactant replacement therapy for acute lung injury in older children, and is presently the lead investigator or co-investigator of three upcoming clinical trials of exogenous surfactant therapy in children and adults.

The Center will also support cutting-edge research in the field of alternative medicine, assuring that discoveries in this field can withstand the same scrutiny that more traditional science programs experience.  Another goal is the development and assessment of innovative approaches and technologies to study disease mechanisms and deliver care to patients of all ages. Penn State CHILD Research will serve as a fertile training ground for future basic science and clinical science investigators.