Gail Besner, MD, Receives R01 Grant from National Institutes of Health to Continue Research on Necrotizing Enterocolitis

October 24, 2011

Gail Besner, MD, principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has been awarded a 4-year R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her work on heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) and intestinal ischemia-reperfusion injury.

Dr. Besner, who holds the John E. Fisher Endowed Chair in Neonatal Research and is a Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, initially discovered HB-EGF in laboratory experiments with human white blood cells, and it was later found to be  a member of the epidermal growth factor family of growth factors. This family of growth factors is important in regulating development and maintenance of various tissues.

Dr. Besner’s research examines the ability of HB-EGF to treat and prevent various forms of intestinal injury including neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Primarily seen in premature infants, NEC is the most common and most serious gastrointestinal disorder among hospitalized preterm infants. It is also their leading cause of surgical death.

Recent data suggest that HB-EGF may not only serve to treat NEC, but may also improve intestinal function afterward. Based on her laboratory discoveries, approval has been received from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin using HB-EGF in human clinical trials.

“Dr. Besner has been conducting this outstanding research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for the last 20 years,” said R. Lawrence Moss, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “This would be an impressive accomplishment for any researcher. For an individual who also manages a large clinical practice and directs a fellowship training program, the achievements are monumental. Dr. Besner’s discoveries will positively influence the lives of babies with NEC around the world.”    

In addition to her role as a researcher in the Center for Perinatal Research, Dr. Besner also serves as the Program Director of the Pediatric Surgery Residency Training Program and as the Associate Burn Director at Nationwide Children’s. She is a member of the American College of Surgeons Executive Committee of the Surgical Research Committee, and recently completed a 4-year term as a full-time member of the Surgery, Anesthesia and Trauma Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. The long range goal of Dr. Besner's work is the use of HB-EGF in the prophylactic and therapeutic treatment of neonates at high risk of developing NEC in order to prevent and treat this often devastating disease.

The Research Project grant (R01) is the original and historically oldest National Institutes of Health grant mechanism. RO1s support a discrete, specified project to be performed by the named investigator.

NOTE TO EDITOR: Dr. Besner is a resident of 43016.

Gail Besner, MD, prinicpal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2018-19 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.