While the cause of Crohn’s is unknown, its symptoms include chronic swelling and inflammation of the intestines. Approximately 80,000 children are affected by this disease, with the number increasing yearly.
Treatments range from oral medications to injectable drugs that circulate throughout the body and have multiple side effects, including an increased risk of cancer. When these treatments eventually fail, surgery is performed to remove parts of the diseased intestine, causing such side effects as the inability to absorb nutrients from foods, growth delays and bone brittleness.
More than two-thirds of those with Crohn’s disease will require surgery during their lifetime, drastically affecting their quality of life. Moreover, treatments for children with Crohn’s are often not ideal because they are based on the adult population.
“The important unmet need is for safe and effective treatments that specifically meet the needs of pediatric patients,” Sharma said. “I have recently developed anti-inflammatory molecules that improve wound healing in urinary bladders. I now aim to adapt these to develop effective new treatments for children with Crohn’s.” The molecules are non-toxic, so they avoid the harmful side effects of current treatments, he noted.
"Being the recipient of The Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award brings me great satisfaction in knowing that an unmet clinical need amongst children will be addressed using state of the art science,” Sharma said.
Also receiving a Hartwell Award is Jeffrey Savas, PhD, who will investigate hampered synapses in autism spectrum disorder.
“Northwestern is honored to be included among leading universities that nominate candidates for The Hartwell Foundation’s Individual Biomedical Research Award,” said Jay Walsh, vice president for research at Northwestern. “We are enthusiastic about the research of Arun Sharma and Jeffrey Savas to improve children’s lives, and we look forward to following their progress.”
Says Philip Iannaccone, MD, PhD, Director of the Developmental Biology Program at the Manne Research Institute, “We are extremely proud that the Hartwell Foundation has recognized three faculty in our program in three successive years to receive this competitive award.”
For each nominee selected for a Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award, Northwestern University will receive a Hartwell Fellowship to fund one postdoctoral candidate of its choice in biomedical research who exemplifies the values of the Foundation. Hartwell Fellowships offer support for two years to scientists in the early stages of their research careers by enabling them to pursue further specialized training as part of professional career development.
The Hartwell Foundation seeks to inspire innovation and achievement by offering individual researchers an opportunity to realize their professional goals. In selecting awardees, The Hartwell Foundation takes into account the compelling and transformative nature of the proposed innovation, the extent to which a strategic or translational approach might accelerate the clinical application of research results to benefit children of the U.S., the extent of collaboration in the proposed research, the institutional commitment to provide encouragement and technical support to the investigator and the extent to which funding the investigator will make a difference.
Read the fulll press release.