The Child Health Research Institute: Children’s & University of Nebraska Medical Center

The Child Health Research Institute aims to fund and support research that advances knowledge about childhood health and diseases.

It is a collaboration between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). Our mission is to promote research in pediatric health, consolidate research in pediatric disease, and provide resources to faculty investigators.

The institute provides a chance to build on our existing partnership and research and extend our findings to the entire research community. The Child Health Research Institute supports all areas of pediatric research, with special focuses on:

  • Cancer Research
  • Cardiac Care
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Rare Diseases
  • Donate to Support Research

    “The greatest advances in clinical research derive from the collaboration of two types of research endeavors. Science researchers come up with new, wonderful, innovative ideas. Clinical researchers test these ideas and see them come to life. People from all angles come together to solve a problem.”

    —William B. Rizzo, MD, Scientific Director, Child Health Research Institute

    What are the benefits of doing research through the Institute?

    The best results come from collaboration between several types of research.

  • Clinical research: involves patients directly, such as testing a new drug or treatment, and measures actual patient outcomes
  • Science research: laboratory-based studies that focus on animals or parts of the human body (e.g., cells, blood, tissues) in a lab setting, without involving patients
  • Translational research: laboratory-based science research that is “translated” into clinical research, which directly involves patients

At Children’s, we participate in clinical research. Through our partnership with the research labs at UNMC, we are working on two sides of the same coin — what’s happening on the basic levels in the laboratory setting lead to actual clinical testing on patients. Science research that has been “converted” into clinical research is called translational research.

Our idea is to get the two groups of researchers together who may not have otherwise collaborated, so they can develop and share ideas. Between the facilities and resources of both institutions, researchers at Children’s and UNMC can partake in both clinical and science studies — and further the scope and breadth of their research.

Fast Facts
  • Our research efforts involve more than 60 faculty members — and we’re still growing.
  • Clinical research studies increased from 7 in 2007, to more than 120 in 2017.
  • We expend approximately $9 million every year on pediatric research.
  • In 2016-2017, our faculty published 123 peer-reviewed papers, as well as numerous chapters, abstracts, and national presentations.
  • We are committed to educating young researchers. Undergraduates with an interest in medical research can participate in our Summer Undergraduate Research Program, and fourth-year medical students can develop projects in our Pediatric Honors Program.

Who can work with the Institute?

Our researchers come from all over the world and collaborate at Children’s, UNMC, University of Nebraska Omaha, Creighton University, and the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Our doors are open to both clinicians and laboratory scientists. As they collaborate, each researcher and institution brings something unique to the table.

Currently, more than 60 faculty members are involved with the Institute. These researchers work on many types of projects. They may have an original idea to test. They might also collaborate with pharmaceutical companies on drug trials, or participate in nationwide, multiple-site studies and trials.

Our research encompasses all areas, from basic laboratory research to epidemiology; disease discovery; characterization of the variation and natural history of diseases; investigating pathogenic mechanisms; and testing new therapeutic approaches.

What is the process for getting started?

The Pediatric Research Office (PRO) is the point of entry for any study. The specialists at the PRO will help researchers with filling out the application for institutional review board (IRB) approval, negotiating between medical centers and outside institutions (e.g., pharmaceutical companies), and determining a budget.

Throughout the process, the PRO stays involved with many of the study protocols and is a constant support system for the following steps:

  • Offering budgetary and contract assistance
  • Communicating with other physicians who want to be involved with the research
  • Helping with carrying out the study
  • Assisting investigators with regulatory requirements and IRB applications
  • Tracking patients who participate in the studies

Nurses and clinic coordinators work with the PRO to help carry out studies. They are often the ones who collect blood or urine samples, or obtain consent for participation from families.

What resources are available for researchers?

In addition to the PRO, researchers at the Institute have access to resources and programs that help them throughout the study. These include:

  • Pediatric Institutional Review Board (IRB)

    This board is comprised of professionals with experience in medicine, pediatric research, ethics, and regulatory issues. They approve all studies that include human research subjects to ensure that the participants are treated fairly. As a pediatric board that focuses solely on research projects involving children, they are distinct from the UNMC’s adult IRB. The IRB meets once a month. Contact Dr. Bruce Gordon for more information.
  • Pediatric Writing Group

    Faculty members learn techniques for improving writing style and clarity of written materials (e.g., manuscripts, abstracts, posters, grant applications). This program meets once a month. Contact Dr. Gary Beck-Dallaghan for more information.
  • Pediatric Writing Workshop

    Faculty members bring in a writing project to revise and edit, under guidance and expertise of experienced pediatric medical writers. This workshop is held twice a year. Contact Drs. Jessica Snowden, Kari Simonsen, or Teri Mauch for more information.
  • Pediatric Research Forum

    This is our central event for the presentation of research projects by pediatric faculty, residents, fellows, and students. Presenters submit abstracts and develop posters of their work for discussion. During the event, a keynote speaker and one or more trainees give an oral presentation during Pediatrics Grand Rounds. This event occurs once a year.
  • Nebraska Pediatric Clinical Trials Unit (NPCTU)

    Nebraska Pediatric Clinical Trials Unit (NPCTU): The NPCTU is a new National Institutes of Health-funded clinical research program that seeks to implement common clinical research studies at centers around the country. It also promotes a registry of volunteer pediatric subjects for recruitment into clinical research studies. One of the major goals of NPCTU is to develop young pediatric faculty who will become future clinical investigators, capable of carrying out clinical research studies. More Information

As part of the Institute, researchers are able to use many resources from UNMC. These resources include:

  • UNMC Center for Clinical & Translational Research (CCTR)

    This is the primary resource for clinical and translational research at UNMC. The 3,300 square foot Clinical Research Center houses two procedure rooms, five general examination rooms, an exercise/stress testing room, a dental or other chair specialty examination room, and a specimen processing laboratory. More Information
  • Institutional Animal Care & Utilization Committee (IACUC)

    Known as “the IRB for animals,” the IACUC oversees and approves all aspects of animal research and care. More Information
  • UNMC Nebraska Biobank

    The biobank stores serum, plasma, whole blood, and DNA for future research studies. Blood is donated to the biobank by patients at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine. More Information
  • UNMC Research Editorial Office

    The office provides support for grant writing, proposal development, and editing of manuscripts and grants. More Information
  • UNMC Grant Resource Library

    The library features application templates, boilerplate language for a variety of grant applications, links to UNMC grant writing seminars, and examples of successful grants. The resources provided at the Grant Resource Library prepare researchers for competitive applications. More Information
  • UNMC Core Labs And Facilities

    Researchers have access to the following labs and facilities:
    • Animal Models, Behavior and Physiology (9 core labs)
    • Bioimaging (13 core labs)
    • Cell and Tissue Analysis (8 core labs)
    • Clinical Research (21 core labs and facilities)
    • Data analysis and statistics: Center for Collaboration on Research Design and Analysis (CCORDA) in the College of Public Health
    • Genomics (6 core labs)
    • Bioinformatics & Biomedical Informatics (6 core labs and facilities)
    • Nanomaterials, Nanomedicine & Nanotechnologies (3 core labs)
    • Proteomics and Systems Biology (12 core labs and facilities)

Research Funding

How is research funded?

There are two major funding sources to support our faculty’s pediatric research:

1. Pediatric Research Grant Program

The Pediatric Research Grant program funds research on children and childhood diseases. The program is administered by UNMC’s Department of Pediatrics.

Two categories of grant applications are considered:

  • Pediatric Research Grants are funded for a maximum of $50,000. Applicants must have a faculty level appointment at UNMC, but they can be primarily based at Children’s or Creighton University Medical Center. A clinical division can be awarded no more than one Pediatric Research Grant per year.
  • Pediatric Mini-Grants are funded for a maximum of $10,000. The Mini-Grant is designed for small research studies, exploratory projects, case studies, etc. Applicants may be faculty, residents, fellows or medical students. Applicants in-training are encouraged to apply and must list a faculty mentor who will supervise the project and attest to the applicant’s commitment and availability.

Applications for all Pediatric Research grants are accepted quarterly (March 1, June 1, September 1, December 1). Grant awards are for a period of one year with the option to carry over unspent funds for a second unfunded year, if requested.

Learn about Pediatric Research Grants and Pediatric Mini-Grants

2. Edna Ittner Pediatric Research Grant Program

The Edna Ittner Pediatric Research grant program supports clinical and basic science research in pediatrics. The program is administered by UNMC, and faculty in any department can apply. Applications are accepted every fall.

Learn about the Edna Ittner Pediatric Research Grant Program

What To Do Next

Looking for more information about the Child Health Research Institute? Contact Bill Rizzo at or call the Pediatric Research Office at 402-559-2511.

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