The Promise of Research: Conversation with Dr. Tom Shanley

The Promise of Research: Conversation with Dr. Tom Shanley

The Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, the research arm of Lurie Children’s, moved to its new home just blocks away from the hospital. It occupies floors 3, 4 and 10 in the brand new Louis A. Simpson and Kimberly K. Querrey Biomedical Research Center, with floor 9 to be built out at a later date. To get a better sense of what this relocation means for our research enterprise, we talked to Tom Shanley, MD, President and Chief Research Officer of the Manne Research Institute, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Founders’ Board Centennial Professor.

How will the move downtown impact research at the Manne Research Institute?

Bringing the entire research institute to the downtown campus will allow us to connect the earliest phase of laboratory-based research with clinical work at the hospital. This will afford greater clinician knowledge of our basic science activities and create more opportunities for clinicians to contribute to the questions asked by our scientists. It will foster greater clinical relevance of our basic science research.

Photo courtesy of Northwestern University

Another key component is that we will share the building with investigators from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. This will drive more synergy and partnerships, which will elevate the science across the medical school.

Finally, our presence downtown will establish a new culture within our pediatric research ecosystem that will undoubtedly increase mentoring opportunities for our trainees. This will help us cultivate more physician-scientists.

How will our new research space help promote discovery?

Each floor is structured in a way that will facilitate greater interaction and collaboration, which will advance scientific discovery. We organized the space around 10 scientific themes or “neighborhoods,” in order to encourage exchange of ideas. We also will have centralized, shared equipment so people can talk about their work and learn from each other as they are conducting experiments.

What are some of the most promising directions for research at the Manne Research Institute?

Each scientific neighborhood, ranging from fertility preservation to injury, repair and regeneration science, holds enormous promise. We are particularly excited about the establishment of CHILDS (Child Health Investigation Leveraging DNA Sciences) Center with the arrival of Dr. Nico Katsanis, our new Associate Chief Research Officer for Translational Research. This center will allow us to further optimize our institution’s commitment to precision medicine for pediatric diseases, as well as help build our understanding of disease development utilizing pre-clinical modeling.  

Photo courtesy of Northwestern University

What is your vision for the research institute in the next five years?

Our vision includes significant increase in research funding, predominantly from the National Institutes of Health, and making highly impactful discoveries. With the new space provided, we aspire to continue our strategic growth of the research enterprise supported by recruitment of additional outstanding investigators, as well as development of the next generation of leaders in pediatric science by mentoring and successful career development of our fellows and junior faculty.

What drew you to pediatric research?

As a trainee in pediatric critical care, I was often caring for kids with acute lung injury or sepsis triggered by infections that resulted in far too many deaths. I was driven by the desire to better understand the cause of these critical illnesses and find much more effective ways to save those kids. Research was my opportunity to do that.

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