Columbia Pediatrics Researchers Receive Seed Funding for Innovative Research

February 20, 2020
Pediatrics INF award recipients

Recipients of INF awards, from left, are Sumeet Banker, Jennifer Woo-Baidal, Andrew Geneslaw, Julia Wynn, and Rebecca Hough. Not pictured: Michael DiLorenzo. (Photo: Charles Manley)

Six Columbia pediatrics researchers were awarded start-up funding from the Department of Pediatrics through a new Innovation Nucleation Fund. The recipients, announced during a department faculty meeting on Feb. 13, are Sumeet Banker, MD, MPH, Michael DiLorenzo, MD, Julia Wynn, MS, Rebecca Hough, MD, PhD, Jennifer Woo-Baidal, MD, MPH, and Andrew Geneslaw, MD.

The fund was established this year with contributions to the Department of Pediatrics from private donors and is designed to bring a venture capital approach to supporting new research in children’s health. 

“The Innovation Nucleation Fund will allow our talented faculty the freedom to pursue innovative, bold ideas in research that could lead to the next major breakthrough in children’s health,” says Jordan S. Orange, MD, PhD, the Reuben S. Carpentier Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Awards of $10,000 to $50,000 were given to faculty whose projects demonstrated an ability to advance the department’s mission of engaging in advocacy, clinical work, education, and basic or clinical translational research.


Sumeet Banker, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics in child and adolescent health, will study how to improve disparities in care and communication for children and families with limited proficiency in English.

Clinical Program 

Michael DiLorenzo, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics in pediatric cardiology, will investigate the use of transcatheter-based imaging to treat lung problems caused by the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in children with congenital heart defects.


Julia Wynn, MS, associate professor of genetic counseling in molecular genetics, will develop an interactive video educational tool to increase participation in pediatric genomics studies. Co-investigators on the project are Priyanka Ahimaz, MS, assistant professor of genetic counseling; Ilana Chilton, MS, lecturer in genetic counseling; Emily Griffin, MS, lecturer in genetic counseling; and Rebecca Hernan, MS, genetic counselor.

Basic/Translational Research 

Rebecca Hough, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics in pediatric critical care medicine, will use imaging of live mouse lungs to better understand cell-to-cell communication underlying pediatric acute respiratory distress syndrome, with the goal of developing targeted therapies for the condition.

Clinical/Translational Research 

Jennifer Woo-Baidal, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics in pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition, with co-investigator Dodi Meyer, MD, professor of pediatrics, will evaluate the implementation of Food FARMacia, a novel, clinically based food assistance program to prevent childhood obesity by tackling food insecurity in families with children under age 5. 

Faculty INF Award 

Andy Geneslaw, MD, instructor in pediatrics in pediatric critical care medicine, will use mobile technology to understand the neurodevelopment effect of severe respiratory failure in infants and toddlers. 


A total of 25 proposals were submitted for consideration by five senior faculty from the Department of Pediatrics. “The application process was extremely competitive, and we received many superb proposals,” says Orange. “We look forward to seeing the impact of these brilliant researchers and their efforts in the near future.”