NIH Awards Training Grant for Research on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

October 30, 2020—(BRONX, NY)—Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have received a five-year, $1.6 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to train basic and translational scientists whose research focuses on intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) in children.

Steven Walkley, Ph.D., D.V.M.

Steven U. Walkley, Ph.D., D.V.M.

The grant will enable IDD leaders at Einstein and Montefiore Health System to create a comprehensive training program for postdoctoral fellows that emphasizes collaboration among research scientists, clinicians, and patients with IDDs. It will operate from the Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC), one of Einstein’s oldest research centers and a renowned hub for pioneering studies on normal and abnormal brain development and function. The co-principal investigators on the grant are Steven Walkley, Ph.D., D.V.M., director of the IDDRC, and Sophie Molholm, Ph.D., associate director of the IDDRC.

Intellectual and developmental disabilities affect millions of children and adults globally and include disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy along with rare genetic conditions like Rett, Fragile X, and Williams syndromes, Tay-Sachs and Salla diseases, and others.

“Einstein and Montefiore’s expertise in IDD and rare disease truly sets us apart,” said Dr. Molholm, who is also professor of pediatrics, in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, and of psychiatry & behavioral sciences at Einstein. “We are deeply committed to ensuring the next generation of researchers is ready to advance scientific knowledge in the field and make an impact in the lives of children and their families.”

Sophie Molholm, Ph.D.

Sophie Molholm, Ph.D.

The fellows will work in the laboratory of an Einstein faculty member performing basic or translational IDD relevant research and will participate in a curated course taught by a multidisciplinary faculty and guest lecturers that focuses on IDD conditions, approaches to studying IDDs, and the clinical and family experience. Trainees also will receive career guidance and professional development. A team of 36 faculty members from nine basic science and clinical departments will contribute to the program and serve as mentors. Trainees will spend part of their time observing and interacting with patients at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM), the Rose F. Kennedy Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC), and the IDDRC’s Human Clinical Phenotyping core.

“The interaction between laboratory scientists and clinicians is at the heart of our mission and has deep historical roots at Einstein,” said Dr. Walkley, who is also professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, of pathology, and in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology. “This new training grant is modeled after one established in 1957 by the late Dr. Korey and passed in 1970 to Dr. Purpura, Einstein’s former dean who was then director of the Rose F. Kennedy IDDRC. Many of our past research fellows, including Dr. Solomon Moshe, Dr. Cedric Raine, and the late Dr. Isabelle Rapin, went on to become highly accomplished faculty here and at other institutions. This new grant will help us continue and expand this tradition for the next generation of scientists.”

The interaction between laboratory scientists and clinicians is at the heart of our mission and has deep historical roots at Einstein.

Steven Walkley, Ph.D., D.V.M.

The IDDRC has begun recruiting for the first group of fellows and will continue adding trainees each year. The grant, titled “Training in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Research,” was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health (1T32HD098067).