The Kim laboratory has led a clinical trial readiness program for fatal neonatal gut disease that disproportionately affects African-American infants and lacks disease-modifying treatments. Several candidate probiotic and small-molecule compounds are advancing through the therapeutic pipelines, but face barriers to development and adoption. To overcome these barriers, Sunyoung Kim and her group in the Department of Biochemistry have an active collaboration with the Division of Neonatology/Department of Pediatrics at LSU Health and at the Washington University School of Medicine. By conducting one of the largest prospective clinical studies in premature infants yet, they have created and validated a novel, molecular biomarker for necrotizing enterocolitis in the clinic. It has doubled the diagnostic identification of the disease, compared to the current gold standard – a milestone important at both the bench and the bedside.
This multi-center, national partnership mirrors the future model for clinical study and clinical trial implementation and lays the foundation for development of novel therapeutics for gut disease in the pediatric population. The Biochemistry/Pediatrics collaborative is now a member of the national biobank for the infant gut disease; this 10-hospital association is committed to working with the patient advocacy groups and the biomedical research community to build solutions for the infants in need. Sunyoung Kim is an invited member of the national Necrotizing Enterocolitis Society Research Advisory Committee and the International Neonatal Consortium, a global public-private collaboration to establish a regulatory path for evaluating safety and effectiveness of neonatal therapies. Most importantly, Maya Heath MD, a neonatology fellow, won one of the top 3 Clinical Research Award prizes at the 2019 national Pediatric Academies Society meeting, a first (to our knowledge) for any Louisiana pediatric fellowship trainee.