Two medical research “dream teams” were announced July 30 as a result of the partnership formed Nov. 13, 2013, between Drexel, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The teams will be comprised of members of the three institutions, and each team will receive a $250,000 grant to research congenital heart disease, a birth defect that refers to structural abnormalities in the heart. CHD affects approximately 1 percent of all newborns and is the most prevalent major birth defect.
One of the teams, led by CHOP cardiologist Robert Levy, will explore artificial heart valves, which are currently used to treat certain cases of CHD. This research is titled “Pediatric Transcatheter Valve Replacements: Preventing Device Failure due to Structural Degeneration.”
“The artificial heart valves are not perfected at this time and have unique disorders that affect the patients who received them,” Levy wrote in an email. “My research tries to identify the mechanisms of the specific problems with artificial heart valves and is also concerned with how to improve these devices with new drug therapies.”
The current best treatment option for patients with tetralogy of Fallot, one form of CHD, is known as transcatheter pulmonary valve therapy. TPV therapy is about 10 years old, and the team is looking to improve the process.
“These devices are very new and will play a big role in the future. TPV, if successful, will reduce the hospital stays for children and enable a more rapid recovery in general,” Levy explained.
The research for Levy’s project will be split evenly among the three institutions, but Levy emphasized that the resources that the Hebrew University can provide will be critical in accomplishing the team’s goals, explaining, “Neither CHOP nor Drexel has a research unit comparable to Hebrew University’s Institute for Drug Research. … The IDR’s expertise, especially [Gershon Golomb’s] contributions, are key to our plans.”
Joining Levy will be Kenneth Barbee and Kara Spiller from Drexel; Dr. Matthew Gillespie from CHOP; Dr. Joseph H. Gorman and Dr. Robert C. Gorman of the University of Pennsylvania; and Gershon Golomb from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Amy Throckmorton, a professor in Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, will be the principle investigator of the second team, whose project is titled “Giving Kids a Chance.” This team will also be investigating CHD, but they aim to uncover less-invasive treatment options for single valve anomalies, another form of the birth defect.
Throckmorton will be joined by fellow Drexel faculty members J. Yasha Kresh and Dr. Randy Stevens; Dr. David J. Goldberg, Dr. Matthew Gillespie, Dr. Kevin K. Whitehead and Dr. Joseph Rossano from CHOP; Amnon Hoffman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Amiram Nir of Hadassah Medical Center.
The partnership between Drexel, CHOP and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was signed into effect in Tel Aviv Nov. 11, 2013, as a part of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s trade mission to Israel; the goal of the partnership being the advancement of pediatric medicine. The two teams were selected out of 20 proposals submitted at a symposium held at CHOP in January 2014, following the partnership agreement.