The Jean and George Brumley, Jr. Neonatal-Perinatal Research Institute (NPRI) was created in 1996 as a multidisciplinary platform to address health problems of the newborn child through translational research programs and to train the next generation of physician-scientists to continue addressing these problems.
The NPRI aims to provide a dedicated environment wherein investigators from different fields can participate in collaborative multidisciplinary research aimed at understanding the basis of key problems suffered by neonates.
The NPRI was founded in 1996 by Ronald Goldberg, MD, Chief of the Division of Neonatology, with the support of the late Dr. George Brumley, Jr., former Division Chief of the Duke Neonatal-Perinatal Program. The mission of the NPRI is to:
- explore the basis for birth defects and neonatal injury of the brain and lungs and translate the findings into clinical practice;
- address issues of health policy as they affect newborn care; and
- educate the next generation of physician-scientists to this endeavor.
Since it was founded, the NPRI has grown into a successful, multimillion dollar endeavor affiliated with 80 senior investigators, who are supported by a variety of external funding agencies.
The NPRI hosts a wide range of research initiatives by investigators with primary appointments in Duke departments, centers, and institutes including Cell Biology, Neurobiology, Nursing, Immunology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Cardiology, Neonatology, Neurology, Pediatrics, Psychology and Neuroscience, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Anesthesiology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Ethics, Medical Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Center for Genomic and Computational Biology, Center for Host-Microbial Interactions, Molecular Physiology Institute, Fuqua School of Business, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Pratt School of Engineering.
Topics under investigation can be categorized into three major groups: basic, clinical, and health care economics research. Basic research includes major initiatives in the causes of birth defects that particularly affect the cardio-craniofacial field and left-right cardiac axis determination, and the perinatal mechanisms of disrupted development and post-natal injury with special emphasis on lung, brain, and heart. Clinical research addresses the problems of low birth weight infants, morbidity and mortality, perinatal asphyxia, ventilatory management, growth and development of high-risk infants, and the role of genomics in neonatal morbidity. Research interests also include medical economics, and biomedical engineering--specifically in the areas of informatics, optics, virtual reality and microdigital fluidics.
Birth defects are the result of multifactorial causative agents, however, in recent years many congenital defects have been linked to genetic mutations. Research by NPRI investigators focuses on the role of genetic and cellular etiologies of birth defects that are the leading causes of infant mortality in the United States. Congenital malformations of the heart and neural tube are the most common serious birth defects and are the subject of intense investigation in the NPRI.
Neonatal Brain and Lung Injury
A major interest of the NPRI is to elucidate basic mechanisms underlying brain development the stereotypical features of inflammation, injury, and repair that disrupt normal perinatal and neonatal development and the role of neural stem cells in development, injury and repair. The NPRI encourages skilled investigators with expertise in brain, lung, and cardiovascular injury to cooperate in the development and use of clinically relevant animal models, incorporating perinatal inflammation, oxidative and ischemic injury, and premature labor.
Clinical projects conducted under NPRI auspices include co-sponsoring of NICHD Neonatal Network research studies as well as Division of Neonatology research projects. The NPRI's success in clinical research was highlighted by the award of the first Duke Translational Medicine Award to NPRI investigators. Specific areas of interest include neonatal pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary injury, and lung function.
The Division has played a major role in developing the NICHD Neonatal Research Network DNA repository which is housed at Duke. This repository includes 1000 extremely low birth weight infants (<1000g) with generic data, one year neurodevelopmental follow-up and a one million SNP genome wide assay. In addition, Duke neonatology is studying the role of stem cell transfusion in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and the use of microdigital fluidics and nanotechnology for bedside diagnosis.
NICHD-Sponsored Fellowship Training
A major aim of the NPRI is to train the next generation of clinical scientists. Our goal is to have an impact on the health of neonates by training leaders in scientific investigation (clinical as well as basic) in problems of the neonate. This is assured by the exceptionally talented basic and clinical mentors available to our trainees and the linking of the Duke Master's Programs in Genomics and Clinical Research, Bioinformatics and Health Policy to specific scientific research opportunities. The quality of the training program is reflected in the quality of its graduates and the NICHD Fellowship Training Grant awarded to the Division in 2005.
Intramural funding for the NPRI was initially provided by the Division of Neonatology and the Duke University Medical Center.
Extramural support comes from various sources including private donors. The NPRI secured substantial philanthropic research funding from outside the University such that its total current endowment is in excess of $4 million, ensuring ongoing stability of the program. Using these funds, the NPRI awards research and educational grants to fellows and junior faculty members to support multidisciplinary collaborations.
Funding to support individual investigators in the NPRI is through the National Institutes of Health, the Zeist Foundation, the Duke Endowment, and other private philanthropic organizations. Investigators in the NPRI from the Division of Neonatology have over $16 million in NIH funding.
The Zeist Foundation has endowed the Jean and George Brumley, Jr. Neonatal-Perinatal Research Institute, providing two endowed chairs for basic scientists and additional programatic support. The NPRI has been designated as a key program in the Dean's ten-year strategic research development plan.
NPRI lab space totals over 7,000 square feet.