Precision Medicine Service | Children’s Rare Disease Cohorts (CRDC)

Ten million children are affected by a rare disease with a genetic cause. Yet, treatments for rare diseases are limited due to the unique challenges of rare disease research. Pediatric patients affected by the same rare disease (cohorts) are few in number and tend to be geographically widely distributed. So, finding a way to combine small cohorts is extremely valuable.

About the CRDC initiative

The Children's Rare Disease Cohort (CRDC) initiative at Boston Children’s Hospital fuels genomics research (the study of all of a person's genes) around 46 rare disease cohorts to expedite pediatric precision medicine. The information gathered supports our internal and collaborative research projects, and under certain circumstances, the data also can inform clinical treatment of participating families. Enrollment and sample collection can be completed from the comfort of your home.

The CRDC is an institution-wide initiative to better understand the molecular abnormalities associated with rare disease phenotypes. We envision this will allow more rapid diagnosis, in some cases personalized-treatment strategies with current medications, and identification of new targets that will facilitate development of new therapies for children with rare disease.

David Williams, MD, Boston Children's Hospital Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology

We have developed a broadly sharable database and have engaged several external partners, including GeneDx, Genuity Science, Emedgene, and Clinithink. Within its first year, the CRDC launched 15 studies of rare pediatric-onset Mendelian diseases, including epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Together, these studies enrolled 2,441 participants and collected data from medical records and research surveys.

NPJ Genomics Medicine
CRDC: An integrative research and clinical genomics initiative


DNA molecules chains floating in water. Abstract DNA from glass material.

CRDC leadership

The CRDC is led by the CRDC Steering Group (Alan Beggs, PhD; Annapurna Poduri, MD, MPH; Janet Chou, MD; Piotr Sliz, PhD; and Shira Rockowitz, PhD) that is guided by a Scientific Advisory Board (Heidi Rehm, PhD, FACMG; Michael Talkowski, PhD; Robert Gentleman, PhD; Christopher Walsh, MD, PhD; Ingrid Holm, MD, MPH; Elizabeth Engle, MD; David Williams, MD). The cohort selection process is led by Timothy Yu, MD. PhD; Leonard Rappaport, MD, MS; Siddharth Srivastava, MD; Margaret Kenna, MD, MPH, FACS, FAAP; and Olaf Bodamer, MD, PhD, FACMG, FAAP, and includes all CRDC faculty members. The CRDC is implemented by Research Computing under the direction of Shira Rockowitz, PhD; and Piotr Sliz, PhD. As of today, 46 rare disease cohorts have been approved to join the CRDC. The table below lists the participating clinicians, their contact information, and area of interest for projects that are operational with IRB protocols in place.

Pediatric rare disease cohorts

More than 31 pediatric rare disease cohorts are now participating in the CRDC.

Cohort Primary Investigator Contact Information
Epilepsy and related disorders Annapurna Poduri, MD, MPH, Department of Neurology
Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, indeterminate colitis, very early onset inflammatory bowel disease) Scott Snapper, MD, PhD, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Immunodeficiencies, autoimmunity, and immune dysregulation Janet Chou, MD, Division of Immunology
Congenital sensorineural hearing loss Margaret Kenna, MD, MPH, FACS, FAAP, Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or related conditions Joel Hirschhorn, MD, PhD, Division of Endocrinology
Idiopathic short stature Joel Hirschhorn, MD, PhD, Division of Endocrinology
Disorders of sexual development/severe hypospadias Joel Hirschhorn, MD, PhD, Division of Endocrinology
Bronchiectasis Benjamin Raby, MD, MPH, Division of Pulmonary Medicine
Childhood interstitial and diffuse lung disease Benjamin Raby, MD, MPH, Division of Pulmonary Medicine
Congenital diarrheas and enteropathies (infantile onset
chronic diarrhea or malabsorption)
Jay Thiagarajah, MD, PhD, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Ultra-rare cohorts Pankaj Agrawal, MD, MMSc, Division of Genetics and Genomics and Division of Newborn Medicine
Cerebral palsy and related disorders (infancy or older)
Siddharth Srivastava, MD, Department of Neurology
Ectodermal dysplasia and cleft lip and/or palate Ingrid Ganske, MD, Department of Plastic & Oral Surgery
Myopathies and dystrophies Alan Beggs, PhD, Division of Genetics and Genomics
Severe early onset major depression (documented before the age of 14) Joseph Gonzalez-Heydrich, MD, Department of Psychiatry
Disorders impacting social and cognitive functioning (ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, or a related disorder) Ryan Doan, PhD, Department of Pediatrics
Severe pediatric COVID-19 Adrienne Randolph, MD, MSc, Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine
Severe chronic pain and insensitivity to pain Charles Berde, MD, PhD, Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine
Anemias and iron disorders
Mark Fleming, MD, DPhil, Department of Pathology
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Pankaj Agrawal, MD, MMSc, Division of Genetics and Genomics and Division of Newborn Medicine
Peripheral vestibular disorders Eliot Shearer, MD, PhD Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement
Nephrotic syndrome/glomerular disease (childhood onset nephrotic syndrome) Matt Sampson, MD, MS, Division of Nephrology
Osteogenesis Imperfecta/multiple fractures (clinical diagnosis of OI OR 3 or more long bone fractures or any spinal compression fractures before puberty) Christina Jacobsen, MD, PhD. Division of Endocrinology 617-919-2035
Psychosis/Psychiatry David Glahn, PhD, Department of Psychiatry
Pediatric urinary tract stone disease Amar Majmundar, MD, PhD, Division of Nephrology
Bone marrow failure and leukemia predisposition Akiko Shimamura, MD, PhD, Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
Brain malformations Christopher Walsh, MD, PhD, Division of Genetics
Congenital heart disease and autism spectrum disorders Maya Chopra, MD, FRACP, Department of Neurology
Hyperkinetic disorders Claudio Melo de Gusmao, MD, Department of Neurology
Infantile esotropia Mary Whitman, MD, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology
Complex fetal cases Monica Wojcik, MD, Division of Newborn Medicine