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Research & Innovation Campus building entrance

Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus welcomes new resident company, AlgometRx

Research & Innovation Campus building entrance

Located on a nearly 12-acre portion of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus, the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus is the nation’s first campus dedicated to pediatrics, which formally opens in September 2021.

On April 26, 2021, AlgometRx Inc., a Children’s National spinout company developing a handheld device to objectively measure pain by pupillary response, will relocate to Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ Washington, DC on the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus. The AlgometRx move comes following the company being awarded the JLABS @ Washington, DC Children’s QuickFire Challenge, which includes a one-year residency at the newly opened JLABS @ Washington, DC – a 32,000-square-foot incubator located at the new Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus in northwest Washington, D.C. As an awardee, AlgometRx also receives access to research and development space, capital equipment, mentorship, resources and programming.

Located on a nearly 12-acre portion of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus, the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus is the nation’s first campus dedicated to pediatrics, which formally opens in September 2021. This campus aims to help address a significant problem: the development of medical and surgical devices for children has long lagged behind that for adults. Over the past decade, only one in four medical devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were indicated for use in children, and the majority were for those ages 12 and up.

By bringing together public and private partners, the campus is a one-of-a-kind innovation ecosystem that aims to accelerate breakthrough discoveries into new treatments and technologies.

AlgometRx was founded by pediatric anesthesiologist Julia C. Finkel, M.D., and originated at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National.

“Pain is the only vital sign that is not objectively measured,” Finkel said. “The current standard of measuring pain is the 0-10 scale, which is based on observations and subjective assessment. This technique increases the likelihood for inaccuracies, especially for infants and children who cannot clearly communicate their pain.”

Finkel’s research was inspired by a desire to find an objective measurement of pain in nonverbal pediatric patients so physicians can better determine the appropriate pain treatment or the effectiveness of a treatment.

“The Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus enables AlgometRx to focus almost exclusively on collecting data, which is the most crucial step at this time,” Finkel said.

AlgometRx aims to submit a formal application to the FDA in the next 12-18 months, with the next six months dedicated to validating the device through a clinical trial.

“The campus also allows us to take advantage of a vast network of the nation’s most innovative pediatric researchers who can provide mentorship on subjects like clinical trial design, prototyping and grant applications,” Finkel said. “Just outside the campus, our team has proximity to relevant federal agencies, such as the FDA, meaning that to date, we’ve only met with FDA officials in person. This advantageous environment will accelerate our progress and allow us to use this technology to more quickly benefit children in pain.”

After its September grand opening, the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus aims to expand its role as a biomedical incubator to include about 50 start-up companies, working to translate potential breakthrough discoveries into new treatments and technologies.

Learn more at www.childrensnational.org/innovationinstitute.

pile of plastic bottles

The linkage between chemicals used in plastics and cardiovascular disease

pile of plastic bottles

For people across the globe, plastics are synonymous with modern life and it’s impossible to avoid exposure to them, including clinical environments where a variety of frequently used materials, such as tubing and blood storage bags, are made from plastics.

For people across the globe, plastics are synonymous with modern life and it’s impossible to avoid exposure to them, including clinical environments where a variety of frequently used materials, such as tubing and blood storage bags, are made from plastics. Led by Nikki Posnack, Ph.D, principal investigator at The Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National Hospital, a team of Children’s National researchers has been studying the potential effects of chemicals found in plastics, such as BPA and DEHP, as possible contributors to cardiovascular disease.

Along with conducting proprietary studies of the potential effects, Posnack and her team recently reviewed available scientific studies to further identify and illuminate the potential links between exposure to the synthetic additives contained in plastics and cardiovascular mortality. The article was published this month in Nature Reviews Cardiology.

In the article Posnack cites a 10-year longitudinal study with the finding that high exposure to BPA was associated with a 46-49% higher hazard ratio for cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, compared with low exposure to BPA.

“Plastics may be indispensable materials, but their ubiquity does raise concerns about the effects of our continuous exposure to plasticizer additives like di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and synthetic chemicals used to create polymers like BPA,” said Posnack. “Although disease causation can be difficult to pinpoint in population and epidemiological studies, experimental work has clearly demonstrated a direct link to plastic chemicals and cardiac dysfunction. It is clear that future collaborative endeavors are necessary to bridge the gap between experimental, epidemiological and clinical investigations to resolve the impact of plastics on cardiovascular health.”

Nikki Gillum Posnack

Nikki Posnack, Ph.D, principal investigator at The Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National Hospital.

Posnack added that, given the omnipresence of plastics and their related chemicals, biomonitoring studies have reported detectable levels of DEHP and BPA in 75-90% of the population. Occupational or clinical environments can also result in elevated exposures to these dangerous chemicals. Previous epidemiological studies have reported links between elevated urinary levels of phthalate or bisphenol, common additives in plastic, and an increased risk of coronary and peripheral artery disease, chronic inflammation, myocardial infarction, angina, suppressed heart rate variability and hypertension.

Additionally, available research has shown that incomplete polymerization or degradation of BPA-based plastic products can result in unsafe human exposure to BPA. Despite these links, the article points out, both BPA and DEHP are still manufactured in high volumes and are used to produce a wide variety of consumer and commercial products.

Further exploring implications for pediatrics, a June 2020 article published by Posnack in Birth Defects Research looks at the potential effects of plastic chemicals on the cardiovascular health of fetal, infant and pediatric groups. The article highlighted experimental work that suggests plasticizer chemicals such as bisphenols and phthalates may exert negative influence on pediatric cardiovascular health. The article systematically called out areas of concern supported by research findings. Also addressing current gaps in knowledge, Posnack outlined future research endeavors that would be needed to resolve the relationship between chemical exposures and the impact on pediatric cardiovascular physiology.

In related work, Posnack and her team are expanding their work on plastics used in blood bags to also investigate the role of blood storage duration on health outcomes. A recently published first study demonstrates that “older” blood products (stored 35 or more days) directly impact cardiac electrophysiology, using experimental models. Published October 22, 2020 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study concludes that the cardiac effects are likely caused by biochemical alterations in the supernatant from red blood cell units that occur over time, including but not limited to, hyperkalemia (elevated potassium levels).