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Children's National Health System Center for Genetic Medicine Research Welcomes Internationally-Renowned Geneticist, Eric Vilain, MD, PhD, as Director

Washington, DC – Eric Vilain, MD, PhD, an internationally renowned geneticist working in the field of gender-based biology, has been named Director of the Center for Genetic Medicine Research at Children’s National Health System’s Children’s Research Institute (CRI).  Dr. Vilain will also become the A. James Clark Distinguished Professor of Molecular Genetics.

“We are very excited about the vision and expertise that Dr. Vilain brings to the study and use of precision medicine approaches, and to the understanding and developing of novel treatments for common and rare diseases of childhood,” said Mark Batshaw, MD, Executive Vice President, Physician-in-Chief, and Chief Academic Officer at Children’s National. “Precision medicine involves sequencing and interpreting the genome of individual patients, which helps improve care and outcomes, especially for devastating diseases of childhood, such as cancer.”

Dr. Vilain joins Children’s National from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he served as Professor of Human Genetics, Pediatrics and Urology, Chief of Medical Genetics, and attending physician in the Department of Pediatrics.

“I am honored to join the world-renowned team at Children’s National, and look forward to continuing to find new, innovative ways to research, diagnose and treat rare disorders,” said Dr. Vilain. “The work we do at the Center will allow us to better understand health and disease as a compound process, which can transform children’s health and help the treatment and prevention of illness, not only in childhood, but throughout a patient’s life.”

Dr. Vilain’s laboratory focuses on the genetics of sexual development and sex differences - specifically the molecular mechanisms of gonad development and the genetic variants of brain sexual differentiation.

His research also explores the biological bases of sex variations in predisposition to disease. Dr. Vilain has created a clinic completely devoted to caring for patients with a wide array of genetic and endocrine issues, particularly cases dealing with variations of sexual development.

In joining the team at Children’s National, Dr. Vilain brings nearly 30 years of expertise. He has authored seminal articles regarding the field of sexual development, and his research program has continuously been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  He is also a Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics and a member of numerous professional committees.

The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Vilain has been recognized by organizations ranging from the NIH, to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, March of Dimes, and the Society for Pediatric Research. He has served as an advisor to the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission since 2011 and has been a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development since 2015.

As part of CRI, which is the academic arm of Children’s National, the Center for Genetic Medicine Research houses a highly interdisciplinary faculty of over 50 scientists and physician investigators from a wide range of scientific and clinical disciplines. All research at Children’s National is conducted through CRI, which focuses on brain development, genetics, and the immune system and how they affect both common and rare diseases. 

CRI also houses the only NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award given to a Children’s Hospital to perform clinical trials of new therapies, and the only Institute devoted to developing medical devices for children.  As a result, Children’s National is able to both focus on health issues in Washington, DC, and serve as an international referral site for rare disorders.

Many of the Genetic Medicine Research Center’s projects are multi-faceted, bringing together various clinical and scientific disciplines. In doing so, the Center provides faculty easy access to the latest, most innovative technologies in the areas of genomics, microscopy, proteomics, bioinformatics, pre-clinical drug trials, and multi-site clinical trial networks.

The CRI also includes four other specialty research centers – the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research, the Center for Neuroscience Research, the Center for Translational Sciences, and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.

Contact: Emily Hartman at 202-476-4500

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