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New Children's Study Head

Harvard Medical School's Matthew Gillman has been tapped to lead the resuscitated National Children's Study, ScienceInsider reports.

The project originally aimed to sequence 100,000 infants in the US and follow them until age 21, collecting environmental, lifestyle, and medical data. The US National Institutes of Health shut it down, though, in late 2014 before it left the pilot stage due to scientific disagreements and project mismanagement.

Congress, however, sought its resurrection under a new name, the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program and approved $165 million in funding this year for it. ECHO is to focus more narrowly on obesity, asthma and allergies, neurodevelopment and related diseases, and birth defects and draw upon existing cohorts of children rather than pull together its own, ScienceInsider notes. The study is expected to last seven years.

The community has largely lauded the decision to place Gillman in charge of the project, ScienceInsider reports. "Gillman is an accomplished child health epidemiologist with extensive experience in pregnancy and birth cohort research," pediatrician and epidemiologist Nigel Paneth from Michigan State University says. He'd faulted the demise of the original project on poor leadership.

Gillman tells ScienceInsider that he envisions this as a way to "create a public resource whose whole is greater than the sum of the parts and to do something larger than what I can do from the university setting."