UofL research team awarded more than $1.6 million by NIH Grant will fund study of environmental influences on child health

    Janice Sullivan, M.D., will lead a University of Louisville team of researchers investigating environmental factors affecting child health.

    The National Institutes of Health today announced a team of researchers headed by  Janice Sullivan, M.D., of the University of Louisville is among grant recipients nationwide receiving funding for a seven-year, multicenter initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). The ECHO program will investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development – from conception through early childhood – influences the health of children and adolescents.

    Sullivan is the chief and medical director of the Kosair Charities Pediatric Clinical Research Unit in UofL’s Department of Pediatrics.  The UofL award totals $1,673,259 to fund a multiple investigator team program titled “The Kentucky Pediatric Clinical Trials Rural/Urban Partnership.”

    “Our team of experienced pediatric clinician-investigators and clinical trial specialists is excited to expand our participation in collaborative multicenter studies that can identify the environmental origins of pediatric diseases and test therapies to treat and prevent disease,” said Department of Pediatrics Vice Chair for Research Brad Keller, M.D. “The research funding announced today will help us continue to find the cures of tomorrow, enabling children in Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond to live longer, healthier lives.”

    The ECHO program will investigate environmental exposures from conception through early childhood. Experiences during sensitive developmental windows – around the time of conception, later in pregnancy and during infancy and early childhood – can have long-lasting effects on the health of children. These experiences encompass a broad range of exposures, from air pollution and chemicals found in neighborhoods, to societal factors such as stress, to individual behaviors like sleep and diet. They may act through any number of biological processes, for example changes in the expression of genes or development of the immune system.

    A critical component of ECHO will be to use the NIH-funded Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program to build state-of-the art pediatric clinical research networks in rural and medically underserved areas, so that children from these communities can participate in clinical trials. Sullivan’s award falls in this category.

    The awards announced today will build the infrastructure and capacity for the ECHO program to support multiple, synergistic longitudinal studies that extend and expand existing cohort studies of mothers and their children. ECHO research will focus on factors that may influence health outcomes around the time of birth as well as into later childhood and adolescence, including upper and lower airway health and development, obesity and brain and nervous system development.

    “Every baby should have the best opportunity to remain healthy and thrive throughout childhood,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.   “ECHO will help us better understand the factors that contribute to optimal health in children.”

    For complete details about the ECHO program, see the NIH announcement.


    About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

    NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.