Research on the Rise
Focus on Facilities Powers Research
Seattle Children’s creates an inspiring environment for discovering how to prevent, treat and cure childhood diseases.
Seattle Children’s Research Institute is committed to providing some of the best minds in the world with some of the finest facilities in the world – a formula for making breakthrough discoveries that lead to lifesaving therapies.
The institute has grown to 330,000 square feet over the last six years – a seven-fold increase since 2006. But square footage is not the whole story. The
Our facilities play an integral role in bridging the gap between laboratory research and patient care.” ~ Victoria Cleator
institute’s facilities are carefully designed and equipped to support pioneering research in an open setting where medical science can flourish. The institute, which consists of nine research centers in three locations, added two highly specialized facilities in 2011. These facilities provide our researchers with vital resources that exist in only a few other places in the country.
• A new therapeutic cell manufacturing facility (one of just three in the country dedicated to pediatric research) provides a stepping-stone for Dr. Michael Jensen to bring his groundbreaking cancer therapies from the laboratory to the bedside.
• A state-of-the-art zebrafish aquatics facility (one of the few designed from the ground up) is helping Dr. Mark Majesky understand the mechanisms that govern tissue regeneration as he works to harness the body’s own cells to repair the heart.
We also moved our research support services staff into offices that showcase the power of open design to foster teamwork and communication. “Our ultimate goal is to have every patient benefit from research,” says Victoria Cleator, who oversees the institute’s facilities. “Our facilities play an integral role in bridging the gap between laboratory research and patient care.”
Aquatics facility a vital resource
Zebrafish are ideally suited for the work of Majesky and his team at the Center for Tissue and Cell Sciences because of their extraordinary ability to regenerate damaged or defective tissue. For example, if part of a zebrafish’s heart is removed, it will grow back and be fully functional within weeks. And zebrafish embryos are transparent, which allows researchers to closely monitor their development.
The zebrafish facility can hold 3,600 fish tanks, making it one of the largest such facilities on the West Coast and allowing many researchers to conduct studies at the same time. The facility is equipped so researchers can perform procedures without transporting the fish back and forth to their lab.
“Most places try to squeeze aquatic facilities into existing spaces,” says Jerry Ament, who oversees the facility. “This is the first one I’ve seen built from the ground up to provide easy access to researchers and keep the zebrafish as safe and healthy as possible.”
From curing mice to curing kids
The institute opened a new building last year to house the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, where Jensen and his team are reprogramming the body’s infection-fighting T-cells to seek and destroy cancer cells. The new therapeutic cell manufacturing facility is a cornerstone of the center, enabling Jensen to create therapies based on his lab findings and evaluate them in clinical trials – the last step in developing treatments that will save children’s lives.
“The facility is an essential piece of infrastructure to move our research forward,” Jensen says. “If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t be able to make the leap from curing mice in the lab to curing children in the real world.”
Children’s is the only pediatric hospital on the West Coast with a facility that meets the Food and Drug Administration’s exacting Good Manufacturing Practice requirements. The facility will manufacture lymphocytes engineered by Jensen and his team to fight cancer, and many other principal investigators will be using it to turn research into therapies. “Opening this facility is a paradigm shift,” Jensen says. “Children’s is now one of the few places in the country where discoveries in the area of cell-based therapies can lead from the lab to the bedside.”
Open floor plans invite collaboration
We’re committed to increasing communication and promoting collaboration through open design. All of our lab benches, for example, are arranged in open bays that enable people to see from one end of every lab floor to the other. Interaction zones close to the lab benches provide space for informal gatherings with coffee bars, tables and chairs. “It’s all about creating an environment where people can exchange ideas and build relationships that will advance their work,” Cleator says.
We applied the same principles to new offices for research support services. All staff members – including Dr. Jim Hendricks, the institute’s president – work in an open expanse of low-rise cubicles instead of separate offices. Small whiteboards display the status of each work group’s projects. All issues are listed on a larger whiteboard – and remain there until they are resolved.
“The offices reflect Children’s commitment to Continuous Performance Improvement (CPI), which is based on Toyota’s principles of removing waste, enhancing teamwork and making things visible,” Hendricks says. “You can’t create teams that are separated by walls. This change is all about encouraging engagement and supporting high-quality work.”
“Opening this facility is a paradigm shift. Children’s is now one of the few places in the country where discoveries in the area of cell-based therapies can leap from the lab to the bedside.”
~ Dr. Mike Jensen