More Than a Building: Why Our Expanded Research Facilities Matter for Kids Everywhere

More Than a Building: Why Our Expanded Research Facilities Matter for Kids Everywhere 1024 624 Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE

At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, we proudly acknowledge the significant role research has in improving patient care and overall child heath. The integration of research and clinical care is at the heart of the hospital’s strategic plan — a $3.3 billion investment over the next several years in our commitment to transform health outcomes for all children.

The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s is a dynamic, collaborative, state-of-the-art environment for world-class research. More than 200 scientists, 100 trainees and 1,400 employees work together to advance the field of pediatric medicine. We have been a top-10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research institute for more than a decade and have nearly doubled our NIH funding over the past 5 years.

To do top-tier research, and attract high-quality talent, our teams need access to advanced facilities that support their work. Our facilities are on par with the best in the world, bringing technology, functionality and aesthetics together in a way that supports the work that drives our mission.

Historically, we have made bold investments in our research infrastructure that have resulted in paradigm shifting work. We were one of the first children’s hospitals to build a Good Manufacturing Practices clinical manufacturing facility to develop viral vectors and cell therapy products for preclinical and clinical research. These early efforts contributed to the major advances in gene therapy that we’ve seen in the past 5 years, most notably with the FDA approval of Zolgensma®, which was developed in these spaces. Now, we’re on the brink of even more success. You can see more of our historical commitment to facilities and infrastructure in the timeline below.

This year, our research enterprise has grown to four dedicated buildings, totaling 800,000 square feet, as well as spaces for clinical research in the main hospital. Research Building IV, opening in May 2023, marks the next step in our evolution.

It is fully connected with Research Building III, operating as a single complex. Across the (soon-to-be) green space is a sophisticated, modern conference center. Collaboration is the heart of scientific progress, and our teams work with experts around the world. Our conference facilities open the door for more collaboration and knowledge sharing, ultimately driving pediatric research forward.

Occupants of the Research Building III/IV complex include:

  • Center for Injury Research and Policy
  • Center for Gene Therapy
  • Center for Childhood Cancer Research
  • Institute for Genomic Medicine
  • Center for Regenerative Medicine
  • Center for Perinatal Research
  • Center for Cardiovascular Research

Our buildings are full of the brightest minds in their fields, driven by the mission to advance cures and better health for children in our community and those who never walk through our doors. While our researchers are undeniably brilliant, they are also some of the most compassionate people you will meet. A beautiful building is to be celebrated, but our team is our greatest success.

This feature was published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue. Download the full issue. 

About the author

Dennis R. Durbin, MD, MSCE, is president of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and vice chair for Research in the Department of Pediatrics.

As president of AWRI, Dr. Durbin oversees the vision and strategic direction for the research institute, including the further integration of research and clinical care at Nationwide Children's as highlighted in the hospital’s recently announced new five-year strategic plan. Dr. Durbin represents the research institute in its ever-growing relationship with The Ohio State University and with the evolving biotechnology ecosystem developing in central Ohio. He also continues to support the recruitment of basic scientists; clinical investigators; and behavioral health and health equity researchers to AWRI.

Previously, as AWRI’s first CSO, Dr. Durbin managed a broad portfolio of research initiatives, leading including the formation of Andelyn Biosciences, the hospital’s first chief clinical research officer position, currently held by pediatric surgeon Kate Deans, MD; the recruitment of over 40 new research-intensive faculty; and the construction of a fourth research building on the Nationwide Children's campus, scheduled to open in 2023. Prior to joining Nationwide Children's in early 2018, Dr. Durbin was the assistant vice president and chief clinical research officer for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. He was also a professor of Pediatrics and an associate scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He was on the university’s faculty for over 20 years as a clinician and scientist. Dr. Durbin has mentored dozens of trainees and junior faculty, supporting them in becoming thriving physician-scientists in independent research careers

Dr. Durbin is an internationally recognized injury epidemiologist whose research has focused on the prevention of motor vehicle occupant injuries to children and the prevention of teen driver crashes. He has published nearly 200 articles and editorials in peer-reviewed journals that established the evidence base for child and adolescent traffic safety interventions and he has extensive experience translating research findings into policy and practice. He served on the Committee for Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention of the American Academy of Pediatrics during which time he was the lead author on the Academy’s revised policy statement on child passenger safety. His research has been recognized by several organizations, including the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the University of Pennsylvania.