Newswise — The Simms/Mann Family Foundation has made a $3 million gift to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to fund an endowed chair for the director of the Developmental Neurogenetics program within CHLA’s Institute for the Developing Mind. The inaugural holder of the Simms/Mann Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics will be Pat Levitt, PhD, who was recruited to Children’s Hospital in 2013 to direct the program. Levitt is also the W.M. Keck Provost Professor of Neurogenetics, Pediatrics, Neuroscience, Pharmacy, Psychiatry, Pathology and Psychology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) and professor of Psychology at USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Levitt’s basic and clinical research holds the promise of identifying how genetics and the environment come together to construct the healthy brain, and how alterations in this complex process can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. A Quintiles Senior Fellow at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, he is also scientific director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, and a senior fellow at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1983, and he was recently elected a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

“One of The Simms/Mann Family Foundation key priorities is to support the advancement of cutting edge research in the area of early neuroscience. The Foundation is proud to support Dr. Levitt’s visionary leadership of important work to help understand early brain development and in particular, the development of learning, social behavior and communication, and emotional connection. With a better scientific understanding of early development, we hope to impact parents and professionals as they help babies and children thrive in the fast-paced 21st century,” said Victoria Simms, PhD, president of The Simms/Mann Family Foundation.

Bringing together an interdisciplinary team of experts, the Developmental Neurogenetics program serves as a bridge between basic discoveries in the research lab and the development of important new prevention strategies and therapies for young patients.

Research areas include how genes and environmental factors such as early adversity increase risk for neurodevelopmental disorders—ranging from autism and anxiety to social, learning and cognitive disabilities—and how research discoveries can be used to develop the very best individualized care possible.

“My goal is to build upon our existing research accomplishments to develop strategies for positively changing the development of each child who is at risk for a neurodevelopmental disorder,” says Levitt. The program is part of the new Institute for the Developing Mind (IDM) at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, established to fulfill the need for expanding research efforts, development of new research technologies, and education of a new generation of interdisciplinary clinicians and scientists—all working to discover new diagnostics, identify risk factors, and develop innovative biomedical, behavioral and educational treatment strategies for childhood brain disorders.

“We are deeply grateful to The Simms/Mann Family Foundation for its enduring commitment to helping children here and around the world,” said D. Brent Polk, MD, chair of Pediatrics and director of The Saban Research Institute. “This endowment will enable Dr. Levitt to lead this unique, translational research program alongside other world-class scientists.”

The president of The Simms/Mann Family Foundation, Victoria Mann Simms, PhD, has been a member of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Board of Trustees since 2002 and currently serves on The Saban Research Institute Committee. Based in Los Angeles, The Simms/Mann Family Foundation and The Simms/Mann Institute work to fund and implement innovative programs to address the complex challenges of the 21st century. In particular, the Foundation and Institute support social and educational programs that foster healthy development of children, families and communities. Programs include the first-of-its-kind Think Tank and Fellowship Program for California Community College Early Childhood Education, The Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology and The Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center at the Venice Family Clinic.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital on the West Coast and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

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