The Saban Research Institute Leadership

The Saban Research Institute


Pat Levitt, PhD
Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer and Director, The Saban Research Institute

Jodi Ogden Rivera, MBA, CRA
Vice President, Research Operations

Tamara Simon, MD
Associate Director of Training and Education, The Saban Research Institute

Bridget Fernandez, MD
Associate Director of Clinical Research, The Saban Research Institute

Research Theme Leaders

Best Starts to Life

Ashwini Lakshmanan, MD, MS, MPH

Beth Smith, PT, DPT, PhD

Douglas Vanderbilt, MD, MS

Discovery to Pediatric Care Innovation

Theme leader update coming soon.

Disease Models and Mechanisms

Theme leader update coming soon.

Prevention and Personalized Care

Theme leader update coming soon.

Research Program Leaders

Program in Developmental Neuroscience and Neurogenetics

Pat Levitt, PhD

Department/Division Programs

Cancer and Blood Disease Institute

Dramatic advances in cancer research and treatment over the past two decades have made it possible for more children to survive this disease. This reality fuels the lifesaving scientific research and clinical trials conducted at the Cancer and Blood Disease Institute (CBDI) of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The Institute has pioneered many of the diagnostic and treatment advances that have improved survival rates.

Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine

The Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine Research Program of The Saban Research Institute seeks to discover the basic mechanisms of human organ development, repair and regeneration. Recent advances in developmental biology hold great promise in many areas of human adult and child health, where organ regeneration, stem cell-based therapy or tissue engineering could be lifesaving.

Diabetes and Obesity

The Diabetes and Obesity Program offers families access to the latest medical studies, known as clinical trials, aimed at finding better ways to diagnose and treat childhood diabetes and obesity. Many treatments used today are based on the results of past clinical trials. Our scientific and clinical experts take the best ideas from the laboratory to the patient in the form of promising new treatments.

The Heart Institute

We boast an integrated inpatient and outpatient suite of services that combines experts in cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, cardiothoracic transplant, cardiothoracic intensive care and cardiovascular acute care on a single floor in a state-of-the-art healing environment. With fewer steps for families to navigate, our patients receive care that is more streamlined and less stressful. We treat from fetus to adulthood and serve as a major tertiary referral center for all congenital heart defects.

The Vision Center

The Vision Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles is an international referral center for children with complex eye diseases and is the only program of its kind in the United States with expertise in virtually every pediatric ophthalmologic subspecialty.

Working in six separate institutes, its physician-scientists are helping children to see every day through the latest medical and surgical treatments, as well as cutting-edge research that will change the lives of families across the globe.

Research Operations Leadership


Karen Niemeier
Executive Director, Research Administration

Chris Del Vecchio, JD
Director, Technology Commercialization

Barbara Driscoll, PhD
Director, Laboratory Science

Matt McPeck, MPA
Director, Post Award and Research Finance

Shannen Nelson, MSN
Director, Clinical Research Support Office

Julie Reyes, PhD
Director, Human Subjects Protection Program


Lilit Amirkhanyan
Manager, Grants & Research Services

The Grants team provides support to Principal Investigators and division staff by reviewing, approving and submitting proposals and accepting awards for sponsored projects.

The Research Services team provides Pre & Post Award research administration support to Principal Investigators who have no division-level support.

Brian Atienza
Manager, Post Award

The Post-Award team provides oversight and guidance of award administration to ensure compliance with sponsor terms and conditions as well as to CHLA policies and procedures.

Tigran Garoian
Manager, Contracts & Clinical Research

The Contracts & Clinical Research team support clinical research by negotiating contracts & budgets with industry, nonprofit, state & federal entities.

Laura Gatewood, MA
Manager, Programs & Analytics

The Programs & Analytics team supports the research community by managing research data analytics, strategic initiatives and core facilities.

Harleen Gill, MPH
Manager, Research Education & Training

The Training, Education, Career Planning & Development (TECPAD) team supports research trainees across various career stages and at different academic levels.

Erika Orozco
Manager, Research Operations

The Research Operations administrative team supports all teams within Research Operations. This also includes the Research Space & Facilities who supports faculty and staff with lab and space needs to improve the utilization of research space.

Virgil Swanier
Manager, Research Finance

The Research Finance Team promotes financial stability within Research Operations by delivering high-quality financial data, standards and analysis to support all external customers and stakeholders for CHLA.

Sharon Tang
Assistant Director, Clinical Research Support Office

The Clinical Research Support Office (CRSO) is a productive, cost-effective service program that supports clinical research studies & trials from start-up to closeout.