Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center

The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) at Children’s National Medical Center conducts multidisciplinary, translational, clinical and community research in intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Our goals are to develop a better understanding of the causes underlying these conditions, develop innovative therapies, and prevent or ameliorate them, thereby permitting each child to achieve his full physical and intellectual potential.

Funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and directed by principal investigator Vittorio Gallo, PhD, the IDDRC at Children’s National focuses on the genetic, cellular, developmental and psychological causes of intellectual and other developmental disabilities. 


Children’s IDDRC is focused on multidisciplinary molecular, cellular and functional studies on brain development and pathology. These studies are continuously integrated with the analysis of the molecular basis of genetic diseases causing intellectual and developmental disabilities and their behavioral manifestations. The specific objectives of the IDDRC are to:

  1. Identify the causes of intellectual and developmental disabilities and develop new approaches to prevent and ameliorate them by directly translating research results into clinical applications
  2. Provide accessible, state-of-the-art and cost-effective core facilities for cohesive multidisciplinary research and training in intellectual and developmental disabilities
  3. Enhance technology and novel experimental approaches in core facilities that specifically support intellectual and developmental disabilities research
  4. Promote collaboration and synergistic interactions among major research and clinical disciplines at Children’s and participating institutions to develop innovative approaches to the investigation of intellectual and developmental disabilities
  5. Attract new trainees and investigators to intellectual and developmental disabilities research, provide a stimulating intellectual environment for scientists from a variety of disciplines
  6. Consolidate and coordinate all intellectual and developmental disabilities research and training activities into a unified effort at all participating institutions


Intellectual and developmental disabilities encompass a broad range of childhood disorders that lead to deficits in cognitive, motor and/or behavioral function. As a group, these disorders affect approximately 15 percent of children, yet we know little of their neurological, neurobehavioral or genetic underpinnings.

New molecular, biological, genetic, and neurobehavioral/neuroimaging approaches to the fundamental questions of ontogenesis of the nervous system have recently improved our understanding of the origin and pathophysiology of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders. Human and animal genome decoding has opened up new opportunities for studying these disorders in combination with cellular and functional approaches.

Technologies have emerged to assay all functionally significant polymorphisms in an individual with a single test. Proteomic profiling approaches have begun to parallel the sensitivity of mRNA profiling, and advanced electrophysiological and imaging techniques allow the functional analysis of distinct genetic phenotypes.

Taken together, these approaches demonstrate a clear link between dysregulation of basic brain development and neurodevelopmental disorders, and provide clear evidence of the need for a multidisciplinary approach to intellectual and developmental disabilities research. This involves highly-specialized, integrated teams of developmental neuroscientists, geneticists, child neurologists, developmental pediatricians, pediatricians, child psychologists, and neuropsychologists. These teams work together to elucidate the physiological basis of brain malformations in children and the cellular/molecular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Children’s IDDRC program reflects this approach, as it includes investigators who synergize to establish multidisciplinary research programs involving distinct, but complementary experimental approaches focused on different areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities research.

The IDDRC program at Children's has provided a platform for continuous and exponential growth of three major research areas, including neuroscience, genetics, and behavioral sciences. This has resulted in a four-fold increase in the total number of IDDRC investigators (currently more than 90) from the establishment of this program to present.

Children’s IDDRC provides access to state-of-the-art and cost effective core research expertise, services and equipment in all areas of intellectual and developmental disabilities research. The broad range of new technologies offered through our five core services provides us with the unique ability to make advanced experimental approaches available to our investigators. Molecular genetic/proteomic, cellular imaging, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological/behavioral techniques are expensive and often inaccessible to individually-funded investigators. These methods require a comprehensive knowledge of up-and-coming scientific advances as well as complex and time-consuming training.

IDDRC Core Services

The IDDRC supports eight areas of multidisciplinary and translational intellectual and developmental disabilities research through its five scientific cores, which are used by more than 90 NIH-funded investigators. These scientists, at Children’s, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and Howard University investigate how the healthy brain develops and acquires mature functions, as well as disorders that limit growth and cause damage to the brain.

IDDRC Core Services
Vittorio Gallo, PhDVittorio Gallo, PhD, Director and Principal Investigator

Scientific Cores Core Directors
Biostatistics and informatics Robert J. McCarter, ScD
Cellular imaging and analysis Jyoti Jaiswal, PhD
Genomics and proteomics Eric P. Hoffman, PhD
Neuroimaging William D. Gaillard, MD
Neurobehavioral evaluation Gerard A. Gioia, PhD
Research areas  


All IDDRC academic activities at Children’s contribute to the training of the next generation of IDDR investigators. These include:

IDDRC Seminar Series

T32 IDDR Training Program

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Laboratory Based Research for Graduate Students

Postdoctoral Trainees and Clinical Fellows

New Program Development with Children's Academic Partners

Steering Committee  
  • Mark L. Batshaw, MD, Chief Academic Officer, Emeritus Director, IDDRC
  • Avital Cnaan, PhD, MS, Associate Director, Biostatistics and Study Design Core
  • Vittorio Gallo, PhD, Director, IDDRC
  • William Gaillard, MD, Associate Director IDDRC, Director, Neuroimaging Core
  • Gerard Gioia, PhD, Director, Neuropsychology Core
  • Yetrib Hathout, PhD, Associate Director, Genomics/Proteomics Core
  • Eric Hoffman, PhD, Director, Genomics/Proteomics Core
  • Jyoti Jaiswal, PhD, Director, Cellular Imaging Core
  • Robert McCarter, PhD, Director, Biostatistics and Study Design Core
  • Mendel Tuchman, MD, Scientific Director, CRI
  • Benjamin Yerys, PhD, Assistant Professor, Psychology; IDDRC Faculty Representative
External Advisory Committee  
Leonard Abbeduto, Ph.D.
Director, UC Davis MIND Institute
Tsakopoulos-Vismara Endowed Chair
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
School of Medicine
UC Davis MIND Institute
Elizabeth Dykens, Ph.D.
Director and Annette Schaffer Eskind Professor
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
Professor of Psychology and Human Development

Professor of Psychiatry 

Vanderbilt University
Michael J. Friedlander, Ph.D.
Founding Executive Director, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
Associate Provost for Health Sciences, Virginia Tech
Senior Dean for Research, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Professor of Biological Sciences, College of Science, Virginia Tech
Professor, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Michael Robinson, Ph.D.
Associate Director
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
Professor of Pediatrics
Children’s Hospital, Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania

Recruitment of New Investigators

At present Children’s IDDRC only services federally funded (NIH/NSF/DOD) grants. Junior faculty members who are applying for their first federal grant but are not yet funded are the only potential exceptions. New investigators are accepted into the IDDRC through a two-step process:

  1. Prospective investigators submit a one-page summary of the project describing its relevance to intellectual and developmental disabilities and the need for support from core services. Applicants must document current Institutional Review Board (IRB)/Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval if relevant, and will be requested to supply documentation of renewal of these approvals.
  2. The Steering Committee determines if the project meets Children’s IDDRC criteria and warrants the use of one or more core facilities. If the project is approved, the Steering Committee submits a recommendation to the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). In case of initial rejection by the Steering Committee, an appeal can be made to the IDDRC director. Advice concerning resolution of conflicts will be sought from department heads, officials of Children’s, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and/or NICHD.

Other National IDDRC Programs & Sponsors


For more information related to the IDDRC, contact Vittorio Gallo, PhD.





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