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Lauren Bakaletz Named 2021 Allen Distinguished Scholar in Pediatric Research

January 29, 2021
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Lauren Bakaletz, PhD, director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis in the Abigail Wexner Research Institute (AWRI) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, was named the 2021 Allen Distinguished Scholar in Pediatric Research. The award is given in honor of former Nationwide Children’s CEO, Steve Allen, MD, and his role in growing the AWRI into a preeminent research institution.

“It is an incredible honor to receive the Allen Distinguished Scholar award for my work,” said Dr. Bakaletz. “I’m thrilled to be recognized in this way.”

“Dr. Bakaletz has been an exemplary investigator and leader since her arrival to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in 1998,” said Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE, chief scientific officer at AWRI. “Her research has been continuously funded by the NIH for over 25 years, and she has established herself as an international thought leader in mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis.”

She and her team study the molecular mechanisms that underlie polymicrobial infections of the respiratory tract, including otitis media, or middle ear infections. Otitis media affects more than 90% of children by age three years. And her research has led to 43 patents and two biotechnology startups.

While working to create a novel vaccine candidate for otitis media (which is still in clinical trials), she and her team made a discovery that would change how we understand and approach biofilms—the extracellular fortresses that shield and protect bacteria from the immune system and antibiotics. This discovery led to a platform technology that has been shown to be effective against biofilms of all kinds in preclinical studies. A clinical trial is anticipated in the next year.

“As a basic scientist, being able to discover something fundamental about a microorganism and to use that new knowledge to develop a platform technology and shepherd it all the way to human trials is a tremendously gratifying and educational experience,” said Dr. Bakaletz.

“Dr. Bakaletz’s research on bacterial biofilms, in collaboration with other AWRI investigators, clearly demonstrates her commitment to translate fundamental discoveries into novel paradigm-shifting therapeutics,” said Dr. Durbin. “We are proud to recognize her many accomplishments here as an Allen Distinguished Scholar.”

Dr. Bakaletz is also the Tillie E. Coleman Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research and vice president for Basic Sciences Research at Nationwide Children’s, as well as a professor of Pediatrics and Otolaryngology at The Ohio State University. She is a scientific founder of Scioto Biosciences and Scientific Advisory Board Co-chair for Clarametyx Biosciences. She was named an Ohio State University College of Medicine Distinguished Professor in 2013, a lifelong honorific distinction. In 2020, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

About the Allen Scholar Award

In nearly 13 years as CEO, Steve Allen, MD, helped build Nationwide Children’s into a renowned pediatric research institution, including overseeing an increase from $41.7 million to $105.9 million in external research awards. Nationwide Children’s is currently ranked sixth in the country for National Institutes of Health funding among freestanding children’s hospitals.

In recognition of Dr. Allen’s role in the evolution of Nationwide Children’s as a leader in pediatric research and health care, Nationwide Children’s established the Steve Allen, MD, Distinguished Scholar in Pediatric Research. The award is given to a preeminent Nationwide Children’s senior researcher for scientific innovation and achievement advancing the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood disease.