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Grants From National Institutes of Health Position Sharp Mary Birch as Leader in Neonatal Research

Anup Katheria, MD
Anup Katheria, MD, leads the Neonatal Research Institute at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.

As the busiest maternity hospital in California — with approximately one baby born per hour — Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns has embraced the opportunity to set the standard for newborn care for more than 20 years. Today, the hospital's exemplary leadership is moving beyond care, into the rigorous scientific research that defines neonatal care across the country.

The Neonatal Research Institute (NRI) at Sharp Mary Birch was established in August 2013 to identify and disseminate the latest evidence-based practices for newborn care. Initial support from Sharp HealthCare enabled the NRI to conduct research and provide cutting-edge therapies through numerous clinical trials focused on premature and at-risk infants. 

"The discoveries happening at Sharp Mary Birch have the potential to impact outcomes for all babies —regionally and nationwide," said Anup Katheria, MD, Director of the Neonatal Research Institute.

This vast potential impact drew support from the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the NRI's first month of operation. The agency awarded the NRI a two-year grant of $128,000 for a cord blood delivery trial. The trial compares a method called umbilical cord milking — where the umbilical cord is squeezed to provide premature newborns with extra oxygen-carrying red blood cells and stem cells — with delayed cord clamping, in which the umbilical cord remains unclamped for about one minute. After just one year, the study has already benefited 140 newborns at Sharp Mary Birch, and suggests milking to reduce illness and risk of bleeding in the brain. The study's findings have the potential to help thousands of fragile newborns at hospitals around the country thrive. 

The NRI's latest study will determine whether resuscitating babies with the umbilical cord still attached improves their outcomes. Again, the NIH stands behind the NRI, this time with a two-year, $350,000 grant to support the delayed cord clamping study.

"The results of this trial could change the practice of delivery on an international scale," said Dr. Katheria. "Imagine how comforting it will be for ill newborns to stay with their parents after delivery. By remaining connected to the mother, babies can get vital cord blood while doctors help the infants breathe."

NRI infographic

In the NRI's first year, more than $1 million has been raised to transform care for newborns through these and five other trials, with more trials to start in the coming months. The institute's goal is to perform 10 trials per year that impact at least 200 newborns and their families, with a corresponding total fundraising goal of $6.5 million over five years. Its unique research model is already paving the way for community hospitals throughout the country.

Learn more about the Neonatal Research Institute and how you can support its leadership in neonatal research and care