October 17, 2011 – (BRONX, NY) – The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University $5.7 million to fund the Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC). The grant supports Einstein's ongoing efforts to improve the lives of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) through combined basic science research and clinical practice.
Steven Walkley, Ph.D. Occurring in an estimated 10 percent of the population, IDDs constitute some of the most significant health conditions in children. They represent a diverse group of chronic conditions – such as autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome – that can limit daily function and impede mobility, language and more. IDDs can begin anytime during a child's development up to 22 years of age, and usually last a lifetime.
"The Rose F. Kennedy Center was founded more than 40 years ago as one of the nation's flagship centers on mental retardation," said Steven Walkley, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of Einstein's IDDRC and professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience. "This grant allows us to intensify the translational research we've been doing, which when coupled with clinical care, may lead to a better understanding of the causes, consequences and potential treatments of these conditions." Dr. Walkley is also professor of pathology and in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology. John Foxe, Ph.D., director of research at Einstein's Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC), will serve as the center's associate director.
Einstein's IDDRC is an interdisciplinary collaboration involving numerous academic departments – including neuroscience, genetics, neurology and pediatrics – along with the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center and CERC, which is directed by Robert Marion, M.D., the Ruth L. Gottesman Professor of Developmental Pediatrics. Its six scientific cores are designed to provide the means for human and animal phenotyping, neuron and whole brain imaging, cell and tissue manipulation, and genetic analysis.
There will be four main areas of focus for the IDDRC that draw on Einstein's strengths in basic science research and extensive clinical practice. The themes are autism spectrum disorders, neurogenetic and seizure disorders, nutritional and environmental determinants of brain development, and deafness and communication disorders.
"While tremendous strides have been made over the past four decades to identify and treat these disorders, it is critical to leverage the most recent advances in research and technologies to better understand what causes them and provide more targeted and effective therapies," explained Dr. Walkley. "Through the combined efforts of our faculty researchers and clinicians, we hope to improve methods of diagnosis, prevention and treatment."
Einstein's IDDRC will also continue to build and sustain outreach programs to help alleviate some of the burden of IDDs on families in the Bronx, which is one of the most ethnically diverse and poorest urban counties in the United States.