Now that the halls have been decked and the most wonderful time of the year is over, Dr. Jim Hendricks, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, took down the holiday tinsel from his work station and spent a moment reflecting on the research institute’s greatest accomplishments of 2014.
There were so many exciting developments over the past year that it’s impossible to fit them all in one short list, but here are some outstanding achievements that come to mind.
- Our investigators had an incredibly successful year when it comes to funding, including government, nonprofit and industry sources. Our total funding increased from $76 million in fiscal year 2013 to nearly $92 million in fiscal year 2014, which represents a 21% increase. This success is a testament to the talent of our investigators considering that the competition for federal grants has increased steadily as the available federal funding has decreased. This funding will help us get closer to finding more treatments and cures for pediatric diseases.
- We continued our first T cell cancer immunotherapy clinical trial this year and opened enrollment for two additional trials. This ground-breaking therapy reprograms the body’s infection-fighting T cells to find and destroy cancer cells with minimal side effects. While our first trial, PLAT-01, continues treating patients with relapsed leukemia, a second trial treating leukemia patients with T cell immunotherapy has had great success thus far. Additionally, a new trial opened in November to treat neuroblastoma using immunotherapy.
- We launched the Strong Against Cancer initiative, our first national fundraising campaign, to support T cell immunotherapy research at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Strong Against Cancer raised nearly $55,000 in the first three weeks, and an additional five-figure corporate donation is expected.
- The Program for Cell and Gene Therapy team in the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapy has been preparing to enroll children with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) in their gene therapy trial in 2015. This trial is the result of many years of laboratory research that can now be translated into cures for patients.
- We started an Office of Science-Industry Partnerships to form collaborations with the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. We want to partner with these industries to accelerate testing and development of new treatments for children. The most recent example is the Alliance for Children’s Therapeutics, a research and funding collaboration with Kineta Inc. that focuses on children and teens with autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma.
- We started renovations of our building located at 1915 Terry Avenue (adjacent to the Jack R. MacDonald building) in 2014 in order to lease it to a tenant for 10 years. They will occupy the space starting in June. It’s a great investment for us – we make some structural upgrades, the tenant invests in the internal remodel and pays rent for 10 years, and then we can move in to the remodeled building with over 260,000 square feet of office space once the lease is up.
- We started planning a Research Discovery Center in the 1st floor space in the Jack R. MacDonald building that was vacated recently by the Motore coffee shop. The Discovery Center will allow community members, to learn about our research through interactive exhibits. It will also provide an opportunity for visitors to meet our researchers face to face outside the laboratory setting. The Research Discovery Center will open in spring 2015.
These accomplishments are all thanks to the talent and perseverance of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute staff. With their incredible dedication, we are bringing potential cures to our patients, improving child health and achieving better care and outcomes.
I’m looking forward to another exciting year in 2015.