The Research Institute :: Mission :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Our Mission, Strategic Plan and History

The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital is dedicated to enhancing the health of children by engaging in high-quality, cutting-edge research according to the highest scientific and ethical standards.

The Mission of Nationwide Children's Hospital

Research is an integral part of the overall Nationwide Children's mission, CARES. Each letter of the word CARES has a special meaning in explaining Nationwide Children's purpose:

C is for commitment to the highest quality healthcare for children, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.

A represents advocacy for children’s well-being by serving as a voice in the public policy arena for improving their health, safety, and security.

R stands for child health research and Nationwide Children's dedication to developing treatments and cures to ensure the future health of children the world over.

E is for education of young patients and their families, of medical and allied health students and professionals, and of the community at large.

S reflects a commitment to providing outstanding service to customers. Nationwide Children's customer service principles define Nationwide Children's promises, such as treating families as top priority and viewing each other as valued customers.

This mission has guided Nationwide Children's into a position as one of America’s finest healthcare facilities for children. Learn more about Nationwide Children's Hospital's strategic plan.

Research Strategic Plan

By 2013, you won’t be able to consider clinical care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital without also considering how basic, clinical, behavioral and health services research are being infused to improve patient health.  At least that’s the intention of the strategic plan for The Research Institute.

The five-year plan focuses on integration of research and clinical care and continued investment in existing basic, clinical, behavioral and health services research areas.

Elevate Infrastructure

Elevate all research areas by creating an accessible, leading-edge infrastructure.  Focus areas for achieving this platform include:

  • Biostatistics and Epidemiology: Improve infrastructure for study design, database design, data retrieval and archiving – essential competencies for clinical, translational and health services research

  • Biorepository: Biospecimen banking including blood, DNA, cells, and biopsies, is critical

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  • Bioinformatics: Improve capacity for data management, programming and warehousing is vital for clinical and translational research

  • Clinical Research Services: Facility expansion with a goal toward an inpatient clinical research unit after new hospital is completed

  • Technology Commercialization: Incentives for new technology development; patents licensing, royalty and company startups


Increase Integration of Research

Strategically integrate clinical and basic research programs to achieve excellence. Focus areas for achieving this platform include:

  • Enhance national clinical and research reputation in the following areas:
    Cancer biology
    Cardiovascular and pulmonary pathophysiology
    Digestive diseases and sciences
    Microbial pathogenesis, immunobiology, vaccine development
    Neonatal and perinatal sciences
    Clinical and translational research across all areas

  • Incentivize integration. Major expansion of intramural grant program and bridge funding.

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  • Focus on mission-critical recruits. Research faculty and investments will take a broader role in recruitment of division and department heads, essential clinical and basic sciences expertise, and reputational recruits.

  • Promote culture evolution. The leaders and scientists we recruit must encourage a culture of collaboration, scientific inquiry and integration.

  • Enhance research training so the research pipeline is primed with well trained and externally funded physician and PhD scientists.
  • Provide research release time for clinician scientists to allow physicians time away from clinical obligations to focus on research.


Develop a Focused Investment

Develop a distinctive, paradigm-shifting, multidisciplinary program that radically accelerates knowledge and care.

The Research Institute Board of Directors presented a challenge as part of this strategic plan: a challenge to identify a key health problem and become the world’s leader in research and care toward resolving that health problem.

Following months of debate and deliberation, a comprehensive and integrated research program on prematurity was chosen as the significant health challenge we are optimally poised to address.

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Preterm birth and its consequences is a major health problem in the United States and worldwide. However, it has received relatively little attention from the public and research community…This health problem is associated with multiple complex and poorly understood, but interrelated, biologic, psychologic, and social factors…” , according to an Institute of Medicine 2006 Report from the Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes.

Other factors making the study of prematurity an exciting, formidable and impactful challenge include:

  • Ohio rates very high in infant mortality and premature births

  • Such a program promotes integration of research and clinical fronts as it crosses nearly all Centers of Emphasis

  • Nationwide Children’s has the largest neonatal care network in the United States

  • Potential for partnerships with OSU and other regional providers is superb

  • Potential for partnership with state government and public agencies is excellent

  • Options for technology commercialization (e.g. biomarkers of prematurity) are plentiful

This challenge positions Nationwide Children’s Hospital to be an international leader in the fight against prematurity.


Our Legacy

A History of Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital can be traced back to 1892, when the hospital was first established – a time when the medical world was without vaccines, antibiotics and sophisticated equipment for diagnosing and treating pediatric illness. In those early years, pediatrics as a medical sub-specialty was in its infancy and the provision of clinical care was experimental by its very nature.

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Organized research activities began at Nationwide Children’s Hospital after the Second World War. The first investigations of significance were the recognition of E. coli III as a source and cause of epidemic diarrhea, and the development of a successful treatment for histoplasmosis by Warren Wheeler, MD. Research programs developed further during the 1950s, when it was realized that a separate organization to manage research should be established. This organization was first known as C-H-I-L-D, Children’s Hospital Investigative Laboratory Division.

C-H-I-L-D later evolved into Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, a non-profit corporation, which was incorporated May 12, 1964. The Research Foundation, which evolved into Columbus Children’s Research Institute, was established “to foster and conduct basic and applied research in the physical, biological and medical sciences and other branches of learning.”



  • Nationwide Children’s Hospital accepted to join an elite group of research centers dedicated to studying neonatal medicine. The Neonatal Research Network, developed by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), is comprised of 18 research centers focused around one cause: to improve the care and outcome of neonates.
  • Dr. Gary Smith, director, Center for Injury Research and Policy, receives the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Chairman’s Circle of Commendation Award, a new award recognizing exceptional contributions to product safety and saving lives.
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  • As part of a select group of 25 national clinical sites, The Ohio State University Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital receive a seven year grant which supports clinical trials for neurologic diseases. The National Institute of Health created the Network of Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT) program that fosters the cooperation needed between sites across the country to conduct timely trials.
  • Jerry Mendell, MD, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and his fellow researchers, received the Annals of Neurology prize for an outstanding contribution to clinical neuroscience.  The study, published in the November 2010 issue of the Annals of Neurology, is part of multi-phase, first-ever successful gene therapy trial in muscular dystrophy, showing sustained expression of a transferred gene to muscle.


  • Nationwide Children’s breaks ground on Research Building III as the last piece of its $840 million strategic facilities expansion plan. This $93 million, six-floor world-class research facility is set to add 225,000 square feet to the existing 300,000 square feet in the Wexner Institute for Pediatric Research and Research II.
  • Director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy Dr. Gary Smith leads a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics on choking, recommending new prevention measures.
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  • $7 million grant designates Nationwide Children’s as a Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center, one of three national award recipients in 2010. The award allows Nationwide Children's researchers to further develop methods to overcome immune barriers to gene correction for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
  • Study by faculty from the Center for Gene Therapy and the Center for Vaccines and Immunity is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Study reveals that an immune reaction to dystrophin, the muscle protein that is defective in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, may pose a new challenge to strengthening muscles of patients with this disease.
  • Nationwide Children's is awarded an $11.5 million contract extension for biospecimen banking to continue its role as one of two Biospecimen Core Resources for The Cancer Genome Atlas.
  • After a 20-plus year career at the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, Mark A. Klebanoff, MD, MPH, joins Nationwide Children’s to lead the Ohio Perinatal Research Network (OPRN), a collaboration to fight prematurity through innovation in research.


  • Nationwide Children’s becomes one of a few free-standing children’s hospitals to receive full accreditation for demonstrating clinical study participant safeguards that surpass state and federal requirements.  The Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, which ensures the highest level of protection for clinical research participants, granted this certification.

  • The Biomedical Genomics Core at The Research Institute becomes the first academic core lab in the United States to achieve status as an Agilent Certified Service Provider.

  • The Center for Gene Therapy completes the construction of its Good Manufacturing Practice facility for producing gene therapy products suitable for human clinical trials.

  • Nationwide Children’s receives a $1.4 million grant to provide in-depth training to clinicians and basic scientist in congenital and acquired heart disease. This training program is the first in the country that focuses on cardiovascular disease as a continuum from fetal life to senescence.

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  • The Biopathology Center becomes a Biospecimen Core Resource for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) of the National Cancer Institute. TCGA was launched to create a comprehensive catalog of the genomic changes involved in more than 20 common types of cancer.

  • As part of the U.S. Government’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, more than 35 grants are awarded to Nationwide Children’s faculty, totaling more than $11 million in external funding.  The largest awards support research in cancer biopathology, neuromuscular gene therapy, computational and mathematical medicine, dimensions of impulsivity and mechanisms of immune protection against viral infections.

  • A study conducted by the Center for Gene Therapy at The Research Institute, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, is designated as one of Nature Medicine’s top 10 key papers published in 2009.  Nature Medicine is a premier journal for biomedical research.  The paper details a promising new cancer-stopping therapy.  The researchers discovered that delivering microRNAs, small molecules that are highly expressed in normal tissues but lost in diseased cells, can result in tumor suppression.



  • Dr. Brady Reynolds' research hits the road with a new mobile Behavioral Research Lab, allowing studies in adolescent impulsivity and smoking cessation behaviors to extend to rural areas of Ohio and surrounding states.

  • Nationwide Children's begins a formal effort at technology commercialization by naming Dr. Chris Willson as its first director of Technology Commercialization.

  • The Muscular Dystrophy Association Clinic at Nationwide Children's Hospital is one of five designated centers in the MDA's Clinical Research Network. The research program focuses primarily on Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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  • The Center for Injury Research and Policy is selected as the only Injury Control Research Center for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on pediatric injury research.

  • A major vivarium expansion is completed, including a state-of-the-art imaging facility and transgenic barrier space.

  • The intramural grant program is reorganized and expanded, facilitating and incentivizing integration between clinical and laboratory sciences.

  • A $34.1 million NIH award to OSU funds the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, a center created to improve the quality of care for all patients in the community by leveraging scientific and clinical expertise from the seven OSU Health Sciences colleges, the OSU Medical Center and Nationwide Children's Hospital.



  • Columbus Children's Research Institute is renamed The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital to recognize the transformational $50 million gift from the Nationwide Foundation.

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  • The Center for Clinical and Translational Research is established.



  • The first human gene therapy trial directed at Duchenne muscular dystrophy is launched at Columbus Children's Hospital in collaboration with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and Asklepios Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. (AskBio). Dr. Jerry Mendell administers the first injection of AskBio’s Biostrophin, which contains a functional gene for the muscle protein dystrophin.

  • Two new vice presidents are named. Kelly Kelleher, MD, MPH, is named vice president for Health Sciences Research and Lauren Bakaletz, PhD, is named vice president for Basic Sciences Research at Columbus Children's Research Institute.

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  • Columbus Children's Hospital receives a 10-year, $50 million commitment from the Nationwide Foundation. The gift supports child safety and injury prevention research, neonatal intensive care, and the heart center.

  • Columbus Children's Research Institute is ranked ninth in total NIH (National Institutes of Health) awards to free-standing children’s hospitals.

  • The Center for Quantitative and Computational Biology is established, with Veronica Vieland, PhD, being named the Center’s director.



  • John Barnard, MD, is named president of Columbus Children's Research Institute.

  • Jerry Mendell, MD, is appointed director of the Center for Gene Therapy.

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  • Christopher Walker, PhD, receives a National Institutes of Health (NIH) MERIT Award for his work on hepatitis C virus. He also receives a grant from the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative funded by Bill and Melinda Gates.

  • The Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice is established, led by Kelly Kelleher, MD, MPH

  • External funding jumps 16% to a record $36.1 million. NIH awards to Columbus Children's increases by 40% from 2004 to 2005.



  • Research Building II opens in 2004 and ten research Centers of Emphasis begin recruiting new scientists to Columbus Children's Hospital.

  • Columbus Children's Research Institute scientist Philip Johnson, MD, along with partners Targeted Genetics, Inc. and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, begin human trials of a vaccine candidate to prevent HIV/AIDS in 2003.

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  • Pulmonologist and researcher Robert Castile, MD patents the first “adult-type” infant pulmonary function testing device in 2000.



  • Children’s Hospital Research Foundation becomes Columbus Children's Research Institute in 1998.

  • Pediatric Clinical Trials International is formed as a site management organization to oversee pharmaceutical trials in response to the FDA’s actions to improve testing of drugs in children.

  • Thomas Hansen, MD and Philip Johnson, MD lead a major reorganization of research activities and administration in 1997. Floors 4 and 5 in the Wexner Institute for Pediatric Research are completed.

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  • Both basic and clinical research continues to grow at Columbus Children's Hospital:

  • Susan O’Dorisio, MD continues cancer research efforts by investigating clinical and biological characteristics of neuroblastomas.

  • Chack-Yung Yu, DPhil studies the complement system, a branch of the immune system that defends against microbial infections, in order to improve understanding of infectious and autoimmune diseases.

  • Philip Johnson, MD begins his work using adeno-associated viral vectors as a delivery system for vaccines.

  • Joan Durbin, MD, PhD continues research on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) pathogenesis and immune responses with the goal of developing an effective vaccine

  • Christopher Walker, PhD leads a national program project on the immunobiology of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection

  • Lauren Bakaletz, PhD studies the molecular pathogenesis of otitis media.



  • Wexner Institute for Pediatric Research opens in 1987 as a result of the extraordinary generosity of Bella Wexner.

  • Children’s Hospital Research Foundation experiences an explosion of basic and clinical research. Noteworthy examples include:

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  • H. William Clatworthy, Jr., MD continues to develop pediatric surgery training and revolutionize pediatric surgery by developing portosystemic shunt procedures for pediatric patients with bleeding varices and portal hypertension.

  • William Newton, MD studies childhood cancer rates for rhabdomyosarcomas and other childhood tumors

  • Samuel Meites, MD pioneers microvolume techniques for blood chemistry tests and standardizes the microlancet size for withdrawing blood from small premature infants.



  • Children’s Hospital Research Foundation expands its research portfolio to include arthritis, birth defects, childhood cancers, learning disabilities, genetics, infectious disease, nutrition, nuclear medicine, and lipid and biochemical research.

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  • Children’s plays a major role in the fight against Reye’s syndrome by assembling a scientific team to develop an innovative therapy.



  • The world’s first rhinovirus reference center, under the direction of Vincent Hamparian PhD, is established in 1965 with an award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The lab is located in the new Ross Hall research building at Children’s Hospital.

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  • Children’s Hospital Research Foundation incorporates on May 12, 1964.

  • The Clinical Study Center admits its first patient, under the care of Juan Sotos, MD.


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