Research Horizons


The Future of Pediatric Research: A View from the Crossroads

Looking across all 27 institutes and centers within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the annual budget for research that touches child health issues reaches about $4 billion. However, much work remains to coordinate that work to achieve greater impact.

That was the overall message from Diana Bianchi, MD, Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), as she addressed a digital audience of health professionals as part of the Envisioning Our Future For Children speaker series, sponsored by Cincinnati Children’s.

Bianchi discussed a “horizontal road” that addressed how the NIH is working to bring together its scattered child research resources. She also addressed a “vertical road” that included priorities such as connecting pediatric science across the lifespan, efforts to include more children in major NIH research initiatives, and ongoing initiatives to expand the diversity of the pediatric science workforce.

“We’re very much concerned across the NIH that so many of the dollars really go to a small percentage of investigators and a small percentage of institutions,” Bianchi says.

Not many people realize that the NICHD funds only 16% of total pediatric research across the NIH, she noted. The rest comes from numerous other sources within the NIH.

One of the primary ways the NIH is working to coordinate its child-related portfolio is through the NIH Pediatric Research Consortium (N-PeRC). This group meets every other month to discuss scientific opportunities and potential new areas of collaboration.

Some research areas receiving high priority include:

  • A focus on child nutrition and healthy microbiome development
  • Studying how opioid exposure can affect placenta function, brain development and neurodevelopmental outcomes
  • Addressing a major gap in research on the needs of adolescents transitioning to adulthood

Watch Bianchi’s full presentation

Coming up:

Mark Wietecha, chief executive officer of the Children’s Hospital Association, will speak Feb. 21, 2023, as part of Cincinnati Children’s Pediatric Grand Rounds. Registration will open soon.