Children’s National: Creating a Pediatric Innovation District

“A great city has a great children’s hospital,” Dr. Kurt Newman, President & CEO of Children’s National Medical Center, told FC2 Trustees this morning.

Washington, DC passes the test. As it comes upon its 150th anniversary, Children’s National is ranked fifth for children’s hospitals and first for neonatal care. Now, at the former Walter Reed Medical Center, Children’s National is poised to launch a Research & Innovation Campus. It will be the country’s first pediatric-focused Innovation District.

DC is an ideal place for one. Within an hour’s drive are the FDA, NIH and world-leading medical research universities like Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. Researchers are barred from starting companies at the NIH. Many have been setting up shop along the I-270 corridor. Soon all those young, entrepreneurial scientists could park their know-how in the District.

Pediatrics could use more research and commercialization. There’s simply less money in pediatrics. There are fewer children than adults, limiting the size of the market, and nearly half of children treated at Children’s National are on Medicaid. Pediatric specialists earn less than adult specialists. Children’s National wants to start building a larger market, draw more young people into the field and energize the pediatric commercial space. Its Innovation District would have scientists rubbing shoulders with educators and entrepreneurs.

Children’s National needs help running the entrepreneurial side of things. They found the perfect partner in Johnson & Johnson, which manages a network of healthcare startup incubators called JLABS that already has a solid track record of success. In last year alone, entrepreneurs at JLABS started 450 companies.

A lot of the pediatric Innovation District’s positive impact will happen off campus. Thousands of people will work and be trained there, and after a few years will move on to another company. We need to make sure those people stay here—so that the benefits compound in DC rather than in Silicon Valley.