14:23 PM

Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund Bolsters Recruitment of International Genomics Leaders to Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Columbus, OH - Nationwide Children’s Hospital has recruited world-renowned researchers Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D. and Elaine R. Mardis, Ph.D. marking a transformational milestone for its genomics research program. At the same time, the Nationwide Foundation has announced a new $10 million gift to the Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund, which is helping to make the ground-breaking research and this recruitment possible. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Mardis will bring their cutting-edge research team from Washington University to Nationwide Children’s Hospital this fall.

“Attracting the team of Dr. Wilson and Dr. Mardis to lead our genomics program is one of the most significant scientific recruitments in this organization’s history,” said Steve Allen, M.D., Nationwide Children’s CEO. “Their leadership, combined with our existing expertise, will establish Nationwide Children’s Hospital as the nation’s pre-eminent genomic medicine program. The Nationwide Foundation’s visionary support has uniquely positioned Nationwide Children’s to assume a leadership role in this new era of genomic-based medicine.”

The Nationwide Foundation has contributed $80 million to Nationwide Children’s since 2006, including $30 million to the Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund since 2014. The Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund is designed to accelerate the most promising pediatric research and clinical discoveries at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. A significant portion of the funding was set aside to attract a pre-eminent genomics team to Nationwide Children’s to accelerate the momentum of the organization’s already robust program.

“Nationwide and the Nationwide Foundation have a long-held commitment to children’s well-being, and we’re proud of our six decades of philanthropic support for Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” said Nationwide Chief Executive Officer Steve Rasmussen. “The work being done through the Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund supports our shared vision of providing the best possible outcomes for children everywhere. We support this effort because we know that what is happening at Nationwide Children’s Hospital will change the future of medicine, not only for families in central Ohio, but for people all over the world.”

Drs. Wilson and Mardis have led the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University since its inception as one of only four genomics centers funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute. In 2008, their team became the first to use new DNA sequencing technology to compare the tumor DNA of a cancer patient with that same patient’s normal tissue DNA, demonstrating that genetic differences between tumor and normal gene sequences could identify mutations driving cancer growth. This foundational work has resulted in an international effort to decode cancer genomes and unlock their secrets to improve treatments and outcomes. Their team also was involved with the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, which seeks to sequence the genomes of more than 750 children with some of the most devastating cancers. Their work has already led to a number of key findings including changing the course of therapy for a deadly form of leukemia, uncovering a drug target in a form of eye cancer, and performing the first clinical trial of personalized vaccines for melanoma patients.

Collectively, they have played key roles in many of the most notable federally funded genomics research initiatives, including the Human Genome Project, The Cancer Genome Atlas, the Human Microbiome Project and the 1,000 Genomes Project.

Dr. Wilson was named the world’s most cited researcher in 2013 by Thomson Reuters’ ScienceWatch with 15 significantly cited papers. Among numerous honors, awards and notable positions, he is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a member of the International Cancer Genomics Consortium and recently co-chaired the executive committee for The Cancer Genome Atlas of the National Cancer Institute, where he remains a member of the Steering Committee.

Dr. Mardis is an internationally recognized expert in cancer genomics who will receive the 2016 Morton K. Schwartz award from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. She also was included on the 2013 Thomson Reuters’ list of most cited researchers, one of only two women listed. Among her several prominent roles, Dr. Mardis is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Association for Cancer Research and a member of the Supervisory Board of Qiagen N.V. She is editor-in-chief of Molecular Case Studies and an associate editor of Molecular Cancer Research, Disease Models and Mechanisms and Annals of Oncology. In 2013 she was featured in Discover magazine’s “The Year in Science.”

Along with this latest recruitment, the Nationwide Foundation Pediatric Innovation Fund has significantly impacted Nationwide Children’s genomics program including the purchase of next-generation equipment that allows for expanded sequencing and analyzing of the human genome. The equipment makes the process faster and more accurate, leading to better capabilities for use in the diagnosis and treatment of child health disorders.

The timing of today’s announcement coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Nationwide Foundation’s $50 million commitment to Nationwide Children’s. At the time, it was the largest gift ever made in Central Ohio, supporting multiple clinical and research priorities including cardiology, neonatology and injury prevention. The 10-year commitment helped support the hospital in recruiting world-renowned talent, expanding its main campus and dedicating a third building to research. 

About The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital

Ranked 9th of only 12 children's hospitals on U.S. News & World Report’s 2015-16 “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric healthcare networks providing care for infants, children and adolescents as well as adult patients with congenital disease. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s faculty train the next generation of pediatricians, scientists and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded free-standing pediatric research facilities in the U.S., supporting basic, clinical, translational and health services research at Nationwide Children’s. The Research Institute encompasses three research facilities totaling 525,000 square feet dedicated to research. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org/Research.

The Nationwide Foundation

The Nationwide Foundation is a nonprofit, private foundation to which Nationwide companies are the donors. Founded in 1959, the Nationwide Foundation has committed more than $355 million since 2000 to help nonprofit organizations in communities where Nationwide associates and their families live and work. Just as Nationwide supports its customers in their moment of need, both Nationwide and the Nationwide Foundation’s involvement in its home communities is focused on supporting organizations that help people facing critical or immediate need.

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.