Phoenix Children's Hospital to launch molecular medicine institute

Phoenix Children's Hospital said it plans to launch a molecular medicine institute in January.

The Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine will initially focus on treating children with cancer but plans to expand to other pediatric diseases in the future.

According to a news release (PDF), half of childhood cancer patients will relapse and “virtually no new” therapies have been introduced over the last 20 years. In addition, the majority of medications prescribed to children have only been tested in adults.

Over the next five years, the institute plans to raise $50 million from multiple sources, including $10 million from the hospital itself and other funding from philanthropic gifts, grants and Life Technologies Corp., a Carlsbad, Calif.-based biotechnology company with a molecular diagnostics business, said Robert Meyer, president and CEO of the Phoenix Children's Hospital, in an interview.

The not-for-profit institute has already raised about $12 million.

It will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Children's Healthcare of Arizona, the parent company of the 345-bed Phoenix Children's Hospital, according to Meyer.

Two physicians—Dr. Timothy Triche, who currently serves as the director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and Dr. Robert Arceci, who is the King Fahd director of pediatric oncology for Johns Hopkins School of Medicine—are expected to join the institute as co-directors in January. Plans also include hiring 50 scientists and other staff.

As part of the institute's strategy, it has established “collaborative relationships” with the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

“A challenge with existing molecular medicine programs is the amount of time that it takes to develop a new drug or treatment,” Meyer said in a news release. “Our collaboration with TGen and University of Arizona opens the doors to making a portfolio of drugs and compounds available immediately.”

Meyer later said that if certain drugs or compounds show promise, the institute would pursue approval from the Food and Drug Administration.



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