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Why We Do What We Do: Building and Protecting Life-Changing Research

P1 and Childrens Mercy Hospital

When we build and maintain the mechanics of a building, we don’t always get to hear the stories of how that facility impacts quality of life for the people who use it, benefit from it, or work in it.

This is not so in the case of the Children’s Mercy Hospital Research Institute tower. This is a story that makes the connection between what we do and why it matters.

A flagship project for P1 Group, the mechanical scope of the project was awarded in 2018. The Research Tower project consisted of two phases, with final completion in early 2021.

Childrens Mercy Hospital Research Tower

Following this milestone, P1 recently announced our pledge of $50K over five years to the Research Institute. P1 President Kollin Knox and Mechanical Team Leader/Senior Project Manager Carey Minihan were able to tour the facility this fall.

The tour was hosted by Ruth Gardner, Children’s Mercy Hospital Manager of Corporate Philanthropic Giving.

“As the tour ended, I thought ‘this is why we do what we do,’” Kollin said. "It may seem difficult to describe P1 Group’s ‘why’, but the following description of the institute summed it up for me.”

The Children’s Mercy Research Institute (CMRI) integrates research and clinical care with multidisciplinary teams at the point of care while bringing together nationally recognized expertise in genomic medicine, precision therapeutics, population health and health care innovation.

As a result, we accelerate the development of groundbreaking individualized therapies and treatments that transform the potential of all children, one child at a time.

Both Kollin and Carey note the profound impact the Institute’s work will have on children’s health, and how humbling it is to be part of its creation.

“P1 gets to put our expertise to work installing complex HVAC and plumbing systems for a facility used to create cures and treatment for children. I cannot think of a more worthy cause,” Carey said.

“Most funding for medical research comes from the NIH (National Institute of Health)," Ruth explained. "Historically, 90% of those dollars go to adult medicine, not pediatrics.”

Ruth says research has been an integral part of the Children’s Mercy Hospital mission since its inception in 1897, serving as one of the hospital’s three founding pillars: clinical care, research, and education.

“In the past, pediatric medicine has mostly just treated children as small adults,” Ruth explained.

“We’re learning kids metabolize things differently, their endocrine systems are very different, and they need different types of treatment, not just smaller doses of adult treatments.”

The Institute has four main areas of focus:

Genomic Medicine

This area supports the clinical process and sequence of the whole genome, asking “is there something in a genome that helps identify root causes of disease and conditions?”

The Genomic Answers for Kids flagship program is the first and only of its kind. By collaborating with other pediatric hospitals around the world, this data repository helps identify answers and treatments for pediatric genetic conditions, particularly “rare” diseases.

As this data base builds, it will be easier to identify larger groups with a “rare” disease – for example, there may be only two cases in Kansas City, but a total of 5,000 around the world. 

The significance of this is large companies, such as pharmaceuticals, will be more likely to develop medicine or needed resources, since they require a certain size population with the disease.

Population Health

This area looks at personal and socio-economic factors in communities where kids are having prevalent health problems, including water quality, food access, and environment. It asks “why is this occurring and how can we help?”

Precision Therapeutics

This area focuses on developing pharmacology designed for kids, like ensuring kids are getting the right dosages of medicine the first time, aiming to avoid multiple trials.

Healthcare Innovation

Everyone at Children’s Mercy is encouraged to be a researcher. No Ph.D. necessary: if someone has an idea for innovation, they can bring it to the Research Institute for further exploration/development.

How P1 Work Impacts Safety and Progress

Throughout this project, P1 has not only followed the mechanical installations, but the important job of maintaining the equipment serving the tower’s critical environments.

IMMUNOTHERAPY

The backbone of cancer care, immunotherapy is manipulating T cells in a lab setting. These facilities require humidity and temperatures must remain highly regulated at all times.

BIO SAMPLES

Essential samples are stored in both the genomic program and immunotherapy labs. These are samples that might be nearly impossible to obtain again. Loss due to any mechanical failure could be catastrophic on many levels, including years of research lost.

BSL 3 LAB

Biologic Safety Level 3 (BSL 3) labs house infectious agents or toxins that may be transmitted through the air and cause potentially lethal infections. They are home to some of the most dangerous viruses, like Zika, Covid, and measles. Having this lab allows the research teams to explore emerging threats.

Ruth says the mechanical systems and maintenance P1 provides ensure a high level of safety in not just containing these elements, but also in protecting the individuals who have to work with them.

“Children’s Mercy took no chances with systems,” P1 Service Manager Adam Collier said.

“The key ingredient is redundancy. If they needed one air handler, four were installed.”

Whether it’s a lab environment or guest seating area, Adam says what might seem like overkill is not – it’s simply making sure the facility is covered, no matter what.

“For the lab environment air, there are four tunnels of air available, and technically only two are needed,” Adam explained. “Even for the common areas and office space, they have redundant air handlers just in case. They have backed up every single thing.”

P1 Service Mechanical MaintenancePictured, Center: Adam demonstrates maintenance protocol for a lab air handling unit; Right: This chiller pump skid for the data systems is a ready-to-go backup that may never be used. The system already runs on chilled water from the plant, but in the event of compromise, this backup is ready.

Commitment to the Future

Ruth says P1’s unrestricted gift can be distributed as needed, and these are just some of the ways it might be used.

  • Help take research ideas into reality
  • Create seed money
  • Pay for research coordinators
    Research coordinators organize trials and research, recruit families to come on board, apply for additional grants, etc.
  • Lab equipment
  • Educational materials for families embarking on a trial

Ruth notes that from people - to research - to treatment - the Research Institute is one more way Children’s Mercy is attracting the best in the country to Kansas City.

“At the end of the day, our focus is translational research – getting it from the lab to the bedside as quickly as possible.”

See the importance of translational research at work. 

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