Research Foundation
Historic Breakthroughs

Our History

A Proud Legacy of Innovation

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center traces its roots back to 1884, when the newly formed Hospital of the Protestant Episcopal Church converted a three-bedroom house into a hospital devoted to serving children.

The Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation – the medical center’s research arm − was founded in 1931 through an endowment from William Cooper Procter, chairman of the hospital’s board of trustees and grandson of William Procter, the cofounder of Procter & Gamble Co.

Since then, major research expansions occurred in 1950, 1968, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2008 and 2015 as the foundation grew to become the nation’s second largest recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health to pediatric institutions.

Today, our work encompasses basic, translational, clinical and quality outcomes research aimed at improving child health. Research breakthroughs from our past serve to inspire us today as we look to genomics, molecular medicine and pharmaceutical therapies to treat a wide range of pediatric afflictions.

Our Medical Breakthroughs

The live oral vaccine developed at Cincinnati Children’s by Albert Sabin, MD, vastly amplified the early gains against polio made by the injected Salk vaccine. As vaccination programs mushroomed, hundreds of thousands of lives were spared from the paralytic disease. Clinical testing of Sabin’s vaccine began in other nations in 1957. US testing began with the first “Sabin Sunday,” held in Cincinnati on April 24, 1960. Overall, Sabin’s research included some 350 scientific papers on topics that also included pneumonia, encephalitis, toxoplasmosis, viruses, sandfly fever, dengue and cancer.


In 1951, cardiologist Samuel Kaplan, MD, joined surgeon James Helmsworth, MD, and chemist Leland Clark, PhD, to develop the world’s first functional heart-lung machine, which was based on a bubble oxygenator that Clark developed two years earlier. Clark’s other major contributions include developing the oxygen electrode and using perfluorocarbons in liquid breathing and artificial blood compounds.


Jeffrey Whitsett, MD, and Timothy Weaver, PhD, were pioneers in understanding lung surfactant during the 1980s. Their research ultimately resulted in identification and cloning of surfactant proteins considered vital to surfactant replacement therapy. Since widespread introduction in 1989, artificial surfactant has transformed care for premature infants, saving an estimated 2,000 lives a year in the United States and many more worldwide.


More than 20 years of research by Richard Ward, PhD, and David Bernstein, MD, led to the development of Rotarix, an oral vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline and licensed for US use in 2008 for the treatment of acute diarrhea due to rotavirus. Since 2004, when Mexico became the first nation to approve the vaccine, more than 114 nations have licensed Rotarix and more than 30 million children have received the vaccine. Wherever the vaccine has been widely distributed, deaths and hospitalizations from this common childhood killer have plummeted. Cincinnati Children’s continues to serve as one of the nation’s leading vaccine research centers.


Over 60 Years of Discovery

  • Researchers demonstrate that divalproex sodium (Depakote) is effective in significantly improving symptoms of bipolar I disorder in children and adolescents.
  • Robert B. Hinton, Jr., MD, and colleagues are the first to show the high heritability and likely genetic underpinnings of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a rare but deadly heart malformation.
  • In the first nationwide Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) study, researchers find that approximately 2.4 million children meet ADHD diagnostic criteria, yet more than half are undiagnosed.
  • Researchers discover that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke and childhood exposure to lead account for more than one-third of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) cases among children in the United States.
  • The crucial role of the protein RhoH GTPase in the development and activation of cells critical to the immune system is identified. The findings, along with other studies, suggest that RhoH GTPase may provide a target for therapeutic intervention in some types of leukemia.
  • The first gene associated with eosinophilic esophagitis is discovered.
  • European officials approve a rotavirus vaccine developed and tested by two Children's researchers. The decision by the European Commission makes Rotarix the first rotavirus vaccine available to children throughout Europe.
  • Creatine transporter deficiency is identified, which can explain developmental delays in some male children.
  • Revealed the genetic underpinning to biliary atresia, the most common reason for liver transplant in children.
  • Developed a genital herpes vaccine that was 75 percent effective in female patients during trials and may help prevent the spread of the virus from mother to newborn.
  • A genetically engineered vaccine is the first to be proved effective in protecting newborns, in an animal model, against cytomegalovirus (CMV), the most common congenital viral infection in the United States.
  • Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, even at extremely low levels, is associated with decreases in certain cognitive skills, including reading, math and logic, and reasoning in children and adolescents.
  • The first study to show adverse consequences of blood lead levels below 10 micrograms per deciliter, the level that is currently considered 'acceptable.'
  • Development of a new vaccine against rotavirus, a leading cause of death in infants and children worldwide.
  • Discovery of a gene and identification of a key protein involved in the development of allergic diseases.
  • Findings that parental obesity more than doubles a child's risk of obesity in adulthood.
  • Discovery of flavohemoglobin's role in protecting bacteria from the body's immune system. May lead to a new generation of more effective antibiotics.
  • Documentation that ATP depletion leading to end organ failure in shock can be pharmacologically delayed. Could improve the chances of surviving gunshots, car accidents and massive infections.
  • Demonstration that immunization can be effective for treating, as well as preventing, genital herpes virus infection; and creation of a compound that appears to provide total protection against herpes virus transmission.
  • Discovery that estrogen is an essential regulator of male adolescent growth and bone mineralization.
  • Discovery of multiple enzyme defects in bile acid synthesis that cause liver failure -- now treatable.
  • Identification and cloning of surfactant proteins, important for optimal surfactant replacement therapy. The introduction of artificial surfactant, used nationwide since 1989 to help improve lung function in premature babies, saves an estimated 2,000 lives a year in the United States.
  • Identification of unique morphological features of Reye syndrome.
  • Development of the Sabin oral polio vaccine, which has conquered polio in the western hemisphere.
  • Development of the first artificial lung compounds (perfluorocarbons), now also used for assisted ventilation.
  • Creation of the first heart-lung machine, opening the door for modern heart surgery.
  • Seminal studies indicating the effects of environmental factors on prenatal development.
Albert Sabin.
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Research foundation building.
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Dr. A. Ashley Weech's dream team.
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Boy in iron lung joins other children in playroom.
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William Cooper Procter.
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