January 30, 2018

Dr. Huda Zoghbi was awarded the National Order of the Cedar, Knight grade by Lebanese President General Michel Aoun at a ceremony held in January at the Presidential Palace in Baabda.

Zoghbi is the founder and director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and holds the Ralph D. Feigin, MD, Endowed Chair in Pediatrics.

This prestigious honor touches close to home as Zoghbi was born and raised in Beruit, Lebanon’s capital and largest city. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from American University Beirut (AUB).

“It is an honor for AUB and indeed for Lebanon that the President of the Republic of Lebanon has conferred on Huda Zoghbi the Order of the Cedar,” said American University Beirut President Fadlo R. Khuri. “Thus, the greatest and most decorated scientist to have completed her undergraduate education at our university over the last several decades, a woman whose work is transforming the science and medicine of some of the world’s most serious neurological diseases, is now recognized by her native country’s highest award.”

Zoghbi’s hard work and dedication to the medical field spans through Texas Children’s and beyond. The National Order of the Cedar is a public service award and Lebanon’s highest honor.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this great honor,” Zoghbi said. “I owe a lot of gratitude to my family who shaped me and to the institutions that educated me: Makassed and the American University of Beirut. I feel fortunate that I grew up and spent my formative years in Lebanon and I hope the culture that inspired me to seek knowledge will continue to inspire and empower the youth of Lebanon.”

Texas Children’s Hospital recently received a $1.9 million grant from The Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation to support Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development (CVD), advancing the efforts to develop a vaccine against Chagas disease.

Chagas is a tropical disease caused by a parasite transmitted to people and animals through insects. The most impacted people are in the poorer areas of Latin America, and the Americas, including Texas. Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine are working together to find ways to eliminate this disease.

“Because of its link to poverty, new interventions for Chagas disease are not generally of great interest to the industry, so it falls to organizations like our Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development to take the lead on developing a vaccine,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, director of the CVD.

Hotez is a distinguished physician with a passion for tropical medicine. He took on this project alongside CVD Deputy Director Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi to insure that quality research and solid outcomes are developed when it comes to neglected tropical diseases.

“To tackle Chagas disease, the evaluation of novel and innovative technologies is an essential step. The support from the Kleberg Foundation will be transformational and will allow to accelerate the development of important control tools against this devastating disease,” Bottazzi said.

The Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation awards grants to institutions that further the vision of the Klebergs, such as improving quality of life through community support, innovation and scientific research.

“We are extremely grateful for our Kleberg Foundation funding, which will allow us to harness the innovative capacity of the Texas Medical Center in order to apply it towards the first vaccine for this devastating condition,” Hotez said.

The first steps have been taken in the vaccine development process, and the CVD hopes to advance the first vaccine candidate to final manufacture and clinical testing within the next few years.

Many of The Department of Surgery’s conglomerate of advanced practice providers (APP) recently attended the department’s first APP Mentorship Program Showcase.

The January 10 event held at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, highlighted work accomplished over the past year by mentors and mentees that have come to build long lasting relationships across the Texas Children’s system.

Supported by Ryan Krasnosky, director of the department’s APP program, and organized and run by APP Project Manager Jordan Rodriguez and APP Clinical Lead Amee Moreno, the goal of the mentorship program is threefold:

1. To promote the benefits of mentoring in the career of APPTo promote the benefits of mentoring in the career of APP
2. Build collaborative relationships throughout the organization
3. Provide a structured mentoring program for surgical APP leaders and future leaders. Provide a structured mentoring program for surgical APP leaders and future leaders.

“We had a great turnout, including support from Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier, Senior Vice President Dr. Angelo Giardino and Chief Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Jed Nuchtern,” Krasnosky said. “Many mentors were present to support the mentees and congratulate them on the enormous success for the year.”

“We would like to thank all of the mentors and mentees who supported the program this year,” Krasnosky added.” “We are looking forward to another successful year of mentorship and building new and lasting relationships in the organization.”

December 19, 2017

Dr. Jordan Orange, professor of pediatrics and chief of the section of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology at Baylor College of Medicine, and the director of the Center for Human Immunobiology at Texas Children’s, is the recipient of the 2018 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Medicine from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

Each year, the O’Donnell Awards recognize rising Texas researchers who are addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

As a trailblazing innovator in modern medicine, Orange was recognized for his accomplishments in defining a new class of diseases, natural killer cell deficiencies. These diseases take place when the body’s built-in defenses against infections, pathogens and cancer are defective and prevent the body from being able to adequately fight back. His work has uncovered immune deficiencies and identified secrets of these disorders to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients, particularly children.

“Learning more about how natural killer cells work could have an important role in the therapy of some of the most vexing medical conditions that we face,” said Dr. Mark W. Kline, chair of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital. “The potential of his work is just now beginning to manifest.”

“The TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards showcase the best and brightest among Texas researchers,” says TAMEST President Gordon England. “Their work is helping to advance science and open new pathways to discovery. We’re proud to recognize Dr. Jordan Orange for his achievements.”

Orange will be presented with this award at a special dinner and reception at the TAMEST annual conference on Thursday, January 11, in League City.

November 14, 2017

Texas Children’s Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Division was recently awarded an NIH Small Business Innovation Research grant via Biotex Inc. to develop vaginal stents that will help vaginal reconstructive patients heal.

The most common complication after vaginal reconstruction is restenosis and scar tissue formation, which can occur in up to 73 percent of patients. As many as 50,000 girls a year and 213,000 women could benefit from postoperative treatment using newly designed vaginal stents.

There currently are no vaginal stents on the market for the pediatric population, forcing physicians to use makeshift devices fashioned from surgical gloves or other materials. “Therefore, there is a tremendous need to help these patients and their physicians with a simple device that can truly improve their quality of life beyond even the surgery,” said Texas Children’s pediatric and adolescent gynecologist Dr. Julie Hakim.

“In creating the first vaginal stent specifically designed to address the anatomic needs of the pediatric and adolescent populations, we aim to reduce early discontinuation of stent postoperatively and improve postsurgical outcomes,” she said.

Phase I testing is ongoing and submission for a grant for a Phase II clinical trial is anticipated to occur in April.

October 10, 2017

Dr. Hsiao-Tuan Chao received the 2017 Outstanding Junior Member Award from the Child Neurology Society for her discovery of the genetic cause of a neurodevelopmental condition known as the Hypotonia Ataxia and Developmental Disorder Syndrome.

Chao is the clinical instructor in pediatric neurology at Baylor College of Medicine and physician-scientist at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at Texas Children’s in the laboratory of Dr. Hugo J. Bellen.

Through large-scale collaborative efforts with the Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN) and Baylor Genetics Laboratory (BGL), Chao’s research studies revealed the pathogenic role of damaging genetic changes in Early B-Cell Factor 3 (EBF3) in neurodevelopment and cognition. Her research continues to focus on elucidating the role of EBF3 dysfunction and transcriptional dysregulation of neural circuits in highly prevalent childhood disorders such as intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.

Dr. Davut Pehlivan, a medical resident in pediatric neurology and physician-scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. James Lupski, is the recipient of the 2017 M. Richard KoenigsBerger Scholarship Award from the Child Neurology Society for his studies related to arthrogryposis patients.

Pehlivan analyzed 108 arthrogryposis families using whole exam sequencing approach as part of Baylor-Hopkins Center for Mendelian Genomics initiative. His studies made important contributions to understanding the disease pathogenesis by showing evidence for oligogenic inheritance in arthrogryposis and yielded several novel genes causing arthrogryposis.

The Child Neurology Society established this scholarship award in 2013 to honor the memory of . The awardee is selected between CNS Junior Members/residents submitting the best abstract in the areas of neonatal neurology, genetic diseases, HIV or metabolic disorders.

October 3, 2017

Dr. Peter J. Hotez is the 2017 recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership for his far-reaching work in the areas of neglected tropical disease (NTD) research and vaccine development.

Hotez is dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine where he is also professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology. He serves as the director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, where he leads a unique product development partnership for developing new vaccines for hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and SARS/MERS, diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

In 2006 at the Clinton Global Initiative, he co-founded a Global Network for NTDs to provide access to essential medicines for hundreds of millions of people. Hotez was among the first to predict Zika’s emergence in the U.S. and is recognized as an authority on vaccines. He is an outspoken leader of national efforts to educate the public about vaccines amid growing misconceptions about them, and he has appeared on BBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Hotez is founding Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.