Seattle Children’s Research Division: Celebrating 15 Years of Innovation

For the past 15 years, Seattle Children’s Research Division has been at the forefront of breakthrough innovations. From new drugs to treat cystic fibrosis, to first-in-the-nation use of laser ablation for epilepsy and brain tumors to remove unwanted cells, the research division is advancing our mission to provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible.

Here, we take a look at some of the achievements of the past decade-and-a-half.

New Drugs for Cystic Fibrosis

Dr. Bonnie Ramsey’s research led to several major breakthroughs in cystic fibrosis, including the eventual FDA approval of three new pediatric medications for the disease. These medical advances dramatically increase the life expectancy of children with cystic fibrosis.


Immunotherapy to Treat Childhood Cancers

Seattle Children’s Therapeutics has designed, manufactured and launched a robust portfolio of immunotherapy clinical trials for childhood cancer since 2012. The world-class Therapeutic Cell Manufacturing facility will soon have the potential to make cell products for up to 1,000 children a year, compared to 120 per year currently. Seattle Children’s has the most comprehensive CAR T-cell immunotherapy program for pediatric patients in the world, so we can treat more types of childhood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, solid tumors and brain tumors using those therapies than any other facility.


COVID-19 Vaccine Research

The Coler Lab processed clinical samples for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as well as those from clinical trials to evaluate booster, “mix and match” and SARS-CoV2 variants of concern. They have developed endpoint assays for vaccines in the pandemic pipeline to evaluate immune response on study participants.


Health Equity Research

The Health Equity Research Program at Seattle Children’s  Center for Diversity and Health Equity focuses on examining inequities in child health and policy and practice solutions to improve child health and healthcare for diverse communities in the region. Part of its work includes providing opportunities for students and researchers historically underrepresented in the biomedical and health sciences to engage in research projects through programs such as Seattle Children’s Scholars (in partnership with the Office of Teaching, Education, and Research) and National Institutes of Health Diversity Supplements.



Drs. Christy McKinney and Michael Cunningham developed the Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology, or NIFTY cup, an inexpensive, lifesaving feeding tool that could save thousands of newborns annually in developing countries around the world. The NIFTY cup helps mothers feed babies with congenital conditions like cleft lip or palate, which prevents them from being able to feed properly.


Children’s Media Use

Dr. Dimitri Christakis’ research into how media and technology affect a child’s developing brain has led to breakthrough findings and guidelines for parents. Among them, Dr. Christakis discovered that young children who watch TV are more likely to develop attention problems and other health and behavioral issues.


SIDS Research

Dr. Nino Ramirez, head of Seattle Children’s Center for Integrative Brain Research, and Dr. Tatiana Anderson are studying Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and its causes. Their research could lead to a better understanding of SIDS, and ways to identify it and prevent it.

B Cell Research and Therapies

Dr. Richard James and his colleagues at Seattle Children’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies are at the forefront of research into B cell therapies, which could result in treatments for a vast array of diseases, including hemophilia and other protein deficiency disorders, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases.


Tumor Paint

Tumor paint was developed in the laboratory of Dr. James Olson. This fluorescent imaging agent lights up tumor cells to help surgeons identify and remove abnormal tumor tissue. Through clinical trials led by Seattle Children’s Research Institute investigator Dr. Sarah Leary, more than 130 children have received Tumor Paint to assist with brain tumor surgery.


Malaria Vaccine Research

Investigators at Seattle Children’s Kappe Lab are pioneering development of a vaccine for malaria, which kills about 400,000 people annually around the world. The lab has produced genetically attenuated parasites that can be used as vaccines to trigger the body’s immune system to prevent infection. This innovative approach could pave the way for a vaccine that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.


Gene Editing

Dr. David Rawlings and collaborating investigators within the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies are developing therapies using gene editing to treat a number of immune diseases, such as diabetes, with the goal of translating discovery work to clinical trials. Dr. Rawlings’ novel technologies have led to the formation of two new biotech companies, GentiBio, Inc. and Be Biopharma, where SCRI is an investor and Dr. Rawlings is a scientific founder.


Laser Ablation for Epilepsy and Brain Tumors

Dr. Jeffrey Ojemann, our Interim Chief Medical Officer, has been performing laser ablation since 2013. Seattle Children’s was among the first in the nation to offer this treatment.


Concussion Research

Drs. Fred Rivara and Sara Chrisman at the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development have been researching youth concussion to improve ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the condition. A consortium of institutions, including the center, recently received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study biological markers that could predict which children might develop persistent symptoms following concussion.


Wilson disease and three primary immunodeficiencies (WAS, XLA, ADA)

Dr. Sihoun Hahn has been studying Wilson disease for over 30 years, and his work has paid off: Washington state is about to launch a pilot study to screen 75,000 newborns using a test developed by Dr. Hahn. If successful, the test could be ultimately used to screen newborns across the country for this life-threatening, but easily treatable, disease. Dr. Hahn’s work could lead to three other primary immunodeficiencies that newborns are not currently tested for — X-linked agammaglobulinemia, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and Adenosine deaminase deficiency.


Science Education

The Science Education Department works to inspire and promote better health for students, inspire a passion for science and improve science education throughout the state. The department serves students from backgrounds underrepresented in science and medicine.