Children’s hospital surgeon, Pitt researcher selected for prestigious Hartwell Award

David Hackam, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been named one of 12 winners of the prestigious Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Awards for his research into necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a leading killer of premature infants.

NEC is a severe inflammatory disease of the intestine that affects thousands of premature infants in the United States each year. In extreme cases, NEC leads to perforation of the intestine, a condition that can be fatal if not treated with emergency surgery.

Dr. Hackam, co-director of the Fetal Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Children’s and Magee-Womens Hospital of  UPMC and  the Roberta Simmons Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery at Pitt said, NEC affects up to a third of all preterm infants and is rising in incidence, so we are extremely grateful to the Hartwell Foundation for recognizing the devastation caused by NEC and for enabling us to pursue the development of new treatments and potentially, a cure.

Dr. Hackam and his team have identified a genetic “switch” that is turned on in infants who develop NEC. This grant, funded by The Hartwell Foundation, will enable continued work in the laboratory toward developing new medications to turn this switch off.