Children's Health

2016 Sanford Children's Health Research Center faculty

2016 Sanford Children's Health Research Center faculty

The mission of the Children's Health Research Center is to conduct basic, translational, and clinical pediatric research.  Interdisciplinary approaches are used to understand the underlying basis of a wide array of congenital defects and childhood diseases.  Areas of interest include rare diseases, pediatric cancers, neurological disorders, developmental disorders, and genetic and environmental effects on childhood health and disease.  In addition, a major initiative within the center is the Sanford Project, which aims to better understand, treat, and cure type I diabetes.  Researchers within the center have expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, immunology, and genetics. 

The Children’s Health Research Center is led by Kyle Roux, PhD and Jill Weimer, PhD.  Research activities are heavily supported by the NIH-funded Center for Pediatric Research, which enables ongoing growth of basic and translational research within the center.  The center has also formed collaborative relationships with other leading research and clinical institutions around the globe, including the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, CA.  With a rich and dynamic research environment, the Children’s Health Research Center is actively advancing toward its goal of understanding and treating pediatric disease.

Children’s Health Research Center Upcoming Events

Seminar Series:  

Jennifer Westendorf, PhD
Vice Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Mayo Clinic
June 22, 2016
Woo-Yang Kim, PhD
Assistant Professor of the Department of Developmental Neuroscience
University of Nebraska
July 13, 2016
Center for Pediatric Research Fall Symposium
September 28, 2016  

Children’s Health Research Center Features

Dr. Kevin Francis, an Associate Scientist in the Children's Health Research Center, was recently interviewed for KSOO's "A Better You" to talk about his work using induced pluripotent stem cells to study rare neurological disorders. Dr. Francis recently published his work focused on use of this stem cell model to study Smith-Lemli-Opitz in the journal Nature Medicine. This highly significant article was highlighted by the journal with a preview article and multiple social media highlights.

Weimer receives Batten disease grant
Sanford Research - Jill WeimerJill Weimer, PhD, director and scientist in the Children’s Health Research Center has received nearly $440,000 to support her research of a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects mostly children. She is the recipient of a one-year grant from the Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray Foundation to Cure Batten Disease, created by Kristen and Gordon Gray, whose two young daughters are battling Batten disease. Weimer’s lab is among only a few in the world studying this form of Batten disease, a group of neurodegenerative diseases most commonly found in children that can cause seizures, blindness, motor and cognitive decline and premature death. Learn more here.



Lance Lee received a grant from the Hydrocephalus Association for a project aimed at identifying genetic modifiers of congenital hydrocephalus. These studies will identify genes that influence susceptibility to hydrocephalus and open new potential avenues for early diagnosis and treatment. The Hydrocephalus Association is the largest foundation dedicated to hydrocephalus research and patient advocacy.

Center Updates

August 2016, Drs. Michelle Baack and Peter Vitiello of the Children’s Health Research Center, and their lab members, Benjamin Forred, Tricia Larsen, and Angela Wachal, published a study emphasizing the adverse developmental and long-term effects of a maternal high-fat diet, alongside late gestation diabetes, on growth of lung vessels and alveoli. This study, entitled “Consequences of a maternal high-fat diet and late gestation diabetes on the developing rat lung,” was published in the journal PLoS One. This highlights their collaborative work and showed that the in utero environment effects both lung maturation and pulmonary circulatory development and that effects persist beyond the newborn period.


August 2016, Drs. Jill Weimer and Kevin Francis as well as Jon Brudvig, a USD PhD candidate in the Weimer lab, recently attended the Gordon Conference on Neural development at Salve Regina College in Newport Rhode Island. The Weimer lab presented research posters on their recent advances in developing a gene therapy for CLN6-Batten disease and their work on a scaffolding protein called MARCKS that is essential for formation of the cerebral cortex. Dr. Francis presented a poster on the role of lipid homeostasis and associated signaling pathways in neural development and stem cell biology.


August 2016, Dr. Jill Weimer, Dr. Daniel Kota and Tiffany Facile recently visited the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to explore potential basic and clinical research collaborations. Specifically the team explored the team discussed a number of potential join projects on cellular based therapies.

July 2016, Drs. David Pearce, Kyle Roux, Kevin Francis, Zhiguang Guo and Jill Weimer recently traveled to Chengdu China where they met with colleagues at Sichuan Neo-life Stem Cell Biotech Inc. and presented on the rare disease research they are doing in the Children's Research Center at Sanford Research

May 2016, Nearly 60 scientists from Sanford Research participated in the 7th annual Sanford Health – USD Biomedical Research Symposium in Vermillion, SD on May 16, 2016. The symposium, co-organized by CHRC’s Dr. Lance Lee, featured oral presentations and posters from scientists at both institutions.

April 2016, A research publication from the Roux Lab was recently recommended for Faculty of 1000 as being of special significance in its field. F1000Prime publishes recommendations of articles in biology and medicine from a faculty of around 10,000 scientists and clinical researchers aimed at highlighting highly significant research. The article entitled "An improved smaller biotin ligase for BioID proximity labeling" was recently published in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell.

March 2016, A delegation of scientist from Sanford, including Drs. Jill Weimer, David Pearce, Attila Kovacs and USD-SSOM MD/PhD student Ryan Geraets will attend the "Batten Disease: 2016 Update of Translational Research for Management of INCL/LINCL Conference” in Bethesda, MD on March 30-31. Each of these scientists will present on translation research on Batten disease that they are doing at Sanford Research.

February 2016, Jake Miller, an MD/PhD candidate at USD-SSOM recently spent an 8-week block at Sanford Research. Jake, who completed his PhD dissertation in the laboratory of Dr. David Pearce, returned to work on CLN3-Batten disease in collaboration with Dr. Jill Weimer’s team. Specifically, his research project focused on characterizing a novel conditional CLN3 deletion mouse line that the Weimer team has developed that allows investigators to selection mutate CLN3 in unique cell types of the brain.

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