On the Pulse

Ensuring the Continuity of Research to Improve Children’s Lives Amidst the Unexpected

Seattle Children’s Therapeutics is envisioning and testing next-generation cell and gene therapies for pediatric diseases so children have the medicines they deserve.

How Seattle Children’s Therapeutics is Navigating the Pandemic

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, Seattle Children’s Therapeutics researcher Kaori Oda worried that her research work would be put on hold, or even worse, need to permanently end. Like most people, she was worried that she and her family might contract the virus, but she was also concerned that a slowdown would impact her team’s timeline for bringing a much-needed therapy to children with leukemia.

Seattle Children’s Therapeutics is a unit in the research division at Seattle Children’s. As a novel non-profit therapeutics development enterprise, it is devoted to envisioning and testing next-generation cell and gene therapies for pediatric diseases, so children have the medicines they deserve.

The Seattle Children’s Therapeutics team has designed, manufactured and launched a robust portfolio of cellular immunotherapy clinical trials for childhood cancer since 2012 in the areas of leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors and solid tumors. The team plans to expand its focus to other childhood diseases that are amenable to treatment using genetic and cellular therapies. Read full post »


The Nadella Family Commits to a Hopeful and Brighter Future for all Children and Families, Supporting Advanced Precision Medicine Neurosciences and Mental and Behavioral Health Care

Zain Nadella is 24 years old. When his family talks about him, they light up. They speak about his eclectic taste in music, his warm sunny smile, and the love he has for his family. Zain has had to struggle against tremendous adversity due to his medical condition. His journey has shaped the Nadella family’s story to one of resilience, empathy, and determination to realize the promise of a brighter future for children with neurological conditions.

Hours after Zain was born, he was rushed to Seattle Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Born with cerebral palsy, he fought for survival in those first few months and required life-saving treatment. His parents, Satya and Anu Nadella, put their trust in the doctors and care providers at Seattle Children’s. Zain’s birth story was not what they had imagined. He was born weighing just 3 pounds and suffered asphyxiation in utero. When they found themselves surrounded by beeping machines and an army of healthcare providers, their focus shifted.

“Like our baby, I too was in survival mode,” Anu said. “I was focused on taking one day at a time.”

Today, Zain still faces many challenges. Zain’s health issues have only intensified as he has grown. He is legally blind and is affected by spastic quadriplegia and has required complex care at Seattle Children’s. The Nadella family likens the hospital to a second home. Read full post »


Building Cure Takes the First Step Toward Living up to Its Name

In March 2021, Harper Chittim became the first patient to receive a cell therapy product manufactured at Building Cure.

Building Cure and Seattle Children’s Therapeutics are devoted to developing innovative therapies for childhood disease. Meet the first patient to receive a cell therapy treatment produced at Building Cure.

When Building Cure opened in fall 2019, Meagan Hollingshead and Josh Chittim had more pressing concerns. Their normally energetic 6-month-old daughter Harper was sick, and multiple visits to their doctor in Yakima had provided no answers.

But when Harper’s condition worsened and she started struggling to breathe, they took her to the emergency room, where bloodwork revealed the devastating cause: Harper had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

The doctor immediately sent them to Seattle Children’s.

“Meagan and Harper flew over to Seattle Children’s,” Chittim said. “And I drove there at 110 miles an hour.”

At that point, Hollingshead and Chittim weren’t aware Building Cure existed. They didn’t know how important the building, and the Seattle Children’s Therapeutics team it houses, would become to Harper’s future. And they had no idea Harper would receive the first cell therapy product manufactured there. Read full post »


How Seattle Children’s Turned One Family’s Devastation Into Hope

When Cassie Fannin was 19-weeks pregnant with her first baby, she couldn’t wait for the ultrasound that would reveal her child’s gender. During the appointment, she and her husband, Michael, were delighted as they watched their beautiful baby wiggling around on the ultrasound screen.

Fannin asked the technician, “Is it a boy or girl?”

But the technician’s previously cheerful expression now suggested something was wrong. “I’ll need to check with the doctor,” the technician said while hurrying out of the room.

Moments later, a doctor gave Fannin and her husband the devastating news that changed their lives.

Read full post »


Responding to Our State’s Youth Mental Health Emergency

Dr. Alysha Thompson is the clinical director of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) at Seattle Children’s. She’s seen first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on youth mental health. She shares how dire the situation has become and provides advice for parents.

We are a year into an unprecedented pandemic that has taken a toll on all our lives. Children and adolescents are feeling this acutely – over the past year we’ve seen a significant increase in mental health-related visits to the emergency room and an increase in youth suicide.

Even before the pandemic, children and adolescents had the most significant rise in suicides over the past two decades compared to other age groups. However, as schools have moved to virtual learning, as people have been isolated from their friends and family, and all the normal structures that bring joy to our lives and give us things to look forward to have altered dramatically, we have seen an even further increase in suicide and suicidal ideation in youth. Read full post »


Study Shows Youth Seeking Gender-Affirming Care Were Satisfied with Telemedicine Appointments During COVID-19

This past year, as many individuals sought health care through telemedicine, a question formed in Dr. Gina Sequeira’s mind. As the co-director of the Gender Clinic at Seattle Children’s, her mission is to make gender-affirming care accessible for all youth, and so the capabilities of telehealth are rightfully an exciting new territory to explore. With the growth of telemedicine and its potential to improve access to care, Sequeira wanted to better understand gender diverse youths’ experiences with and satisfaction receiving virtual care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published in Transgender Health, Sequeira, the lead author, found the majority of youth who participated in the study were satisfied with telemedicine and would be willing to use it again in the future. Although many said they preferred in-person visits, about 88% of gender diverse adolescents were satisfied with conducting gender clinic visits using telemedicine.

“Telemedicine has been a great way for us to support gender diverse youth and their families during the pandemic. Because of the limited number of pediatric gender-affirming care providers in the region, prior to the pandemic, many families experienced geographic and cost related barriers to receiving this care. We are hopeful that by continuing to offer gender clinic visits over telemedicine we will be able to overcome some of those barriers.” Sequeira said. Read full post »


“I Chose to Get Vaccinated, But I Understand Why Others Hesitate”

Dr. Monique Burton, medical director of Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s, will be sharing her vaccination experience with the athletes she cares for and the community at large.

Dr. Monique Burton is the medical director of Sports Medicine at Seattle Children’s, Chair of the USA Track and Field Sports Medicine Science Committee, and a physician for the U.S. Track and Field team who will travel with the team to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Burton received a COVID-19 vaccine and documented her experience to share with athletes and the community at large. Here, she shares her understanding of vaccine hesitancy among people of color, and how she wants to provide the community with information and tools so they can make informed decisions for themselves.

Last year, when I learned a COVID-19 vaccine would soon be available, I wanted to learn more. I was inquisitive and perhaps even a little hesitant. This vaccine was different from the longstanding vaccines my children and I had previously received. If I was prescribed a new medication I wouldn’t hesitate to ask questions, and I approached this new vaccine the same way.

Read full post »


How Two Seattle Children’s Nurses’ Personal and Professional Experiences Motivate Them to Tackle Inequity

Nurses Genevieve Aguilar (left) and Mari Moore (right) serve as facilitators for Seattle Children’s equity, diversity and inclusion training for nurses.

Seattle Children’s nurses Genevieve Aguilar and Mari Moore share their perspective on equity and inclusion in the workplace, why they’re engaged with Seattle Children’s journey toward anti-racism, and about their roles as facilitators for Seattle Children’s equity, diversity and inclusion training.

Seattle Children’s nurses Genevieve Aguilar, a Medical Unit team member, and Mari Moore, a unit based educator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), have lived and witnessed firsthand the experiences of Seattle Children’s patients and workforce members who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

Here, Aguilar and Moore share their perspectives on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace, why they’re engaged with Seattle Children’s journey toward becoming an anti-racist organization, and about their roles as facilitators for Seattle Children’s EDI training for nurses. Read full post »


Seattle Children’s and Educational Leaders Launch the Washington State School-Based COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program

Dr. Amanda Jones, senior director of education initiatives at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and her team held a training at Auburn Senior High School to teach school personnel to use point-of-care rapid antigen test cards technology. In one day, the team trained more than 40 school personnel. Pictured above are Sarah Garcia, Alex Chang, Amanda Jones, Billy Roden and Rebecca Carter.

A year ago, many schools shuttered due to COVID-19, forcing schools and families to transition into unknown territory: remote learning. Today, thanks to a partnership between Seattle Children’s and school districts in Washington, schools are one step closer to transitioning back to in-person learning.

Seattle Children’s and educational leaders recently launched the Washington State School-Based COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program. The program, which started with Auburn School District, will eventually expand to more districts across the state.

The pilot program is currently working with 10 school districts across the western Puget Sound region. Each district has the opportunity to create weekly a COVID-19 testing program tailored for its own schools, staff and students.

“The collaboration between the school districts and the local, state and federal government has been truly remarkable. It’s taken the concerted effort of people across organizations to launch this program,” said Dr. Eric Tham, interim senior vice president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “I’m incredibly proud of our teams at Seattle Children’s who have worked tirelessly to support this important work and have gone above and beyond to help get kids back to school safely.” Read full post »


Community Gathers to Cheer for Mercy on Her Way to Seattle Children’s for Last Round of Chemo

At 16 years old, Mercy Haub, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. She just finished her last round of chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s.

Mercy chronicles her journey through Instagram.

Mercy Haub has wanted to cure cancer since she was 7 years old.

“The irony of it all is unbelievable,” she said.

Today, at 16 years old, that mission still drives her, but now it hits closer to home, more so than she could have ever imagined.

A week before the statewide lockdown went into effect in Washington, Mercy began to feel sick. An assortment of unusual symptoms compounded on one another. She felt weak and fatigued, experienced chest pain and rashes. The symptoms persisted and eventually doctors were able to determine the insidious cause: cancer. Read full post »