August 28, 2009

Kennedy Center to continue as national Developmental Disabilities Research Center

Kennedy Center to continue as national Developmental Disabilities Research Center

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is receiving a five-year, $6.8 million renewal grant as a national Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC).

The grant, awarded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, will support research by Vanderbilt faculty who are center investigators.

There are 14 IDDRCs nationally; the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is among the few who also are University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and have a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities training grant, as well as other training grants.

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is one of Vanderbilt University’s greatest resources for discovery and service,” said Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos.
“Attaining renewal of this national developmental disabilities grant is an important milestone and further demonstrates Vanderbilt’s role as a national leader in this important area.”

The center’s research will focus on four broad areas over the next five years — basic mechanisms of nervous system development, cognitive processes and interventions, mental health dysfunction and interventions and life impact of disabilities on individuals and families.

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has a distinguished history in research and in the care of children and adults with developmental disabilities,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“This grant comes at a pivotal time as scientists develop new tools to understand brain development and imaging, and to understand the interplay between genetics and environment. These news areas of discovery will, over time, translate into improvements in the prevention and treatment of developmental disabilities.”

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., professor of Psychology and Human Development, is the IDDRC director.

Competition for the IDDRC center grants is open to research universities across the nation and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center competed with a record number of applicants.

“Successful renewal is a tribute to the leadership of Elisabeth Dykens, to the outstanding Vanderbilt scientists who lead the center’s research cores, and to the many biomedical and behavioral researchers who are center investigators,” Balser said.

The NICHD grant supports four research cores: Basic Neuroscience Services, led by Karoly Mirnics, M.D.; Statistics and Methodology Services, led by Frank Harrell, Ph.D.; Clinical Neuroscience Services, led by Adam Anderson, Ph.D., and Participant Recruitment and Assessment Services, led by  Dykens. The grant also supports administrative services, led by Dykens and Tim Stafford, director of operations.

VKC investigators represent more than 20 disciplines in the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and the College of Arts and Science.

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is enormously proud to continue as a part of the distinguished network of national Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers,” said Dykens.

“I’m grateful to the leadership of Vanderbilt University, because institutional commitment is absolutely critical in obtaining this funding. And I’m grateful to the directors of our scientific cores, each of whom contributed to the conceptualization and justification of research support services,” Dykens said.

“We’re celebrating this wonderful achievement because we understand that this center’s mission is so important to improving the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities.”

For more information about the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, go here.