Sanford Research draws global team

The team at the Sanford Children's Health Research Center.
The team at the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center.

A United Airlines flight leaves Sioux Falls at 6:25 p.m. each Friday headed to Chicago.

And nearly every time, Jill Weimer has a seat on it.

Weimer, 41, helps direct the Children’s Health Research Center at Sanford Health, is the senior director of therapeutic development and also leads a team of scientists working to cure rare childhood diseases.

Her husband, a nuclear engineer, works in Chicago. So at the end of each week, Weimer boards a plane. She will return on a flight that arrives Monday night. She works from Illinois one week out of every six.

“My lab jokes they hate it when I work off-site because they get 100 percent of my attention versus when I’m here I’m pulled into a hundred meetings,” Weimer said. “They get hundreds of emails from me.”

When she’s in Sioux Falls, Weimer rarely is far from the lab. She estimates she works 12-hour days, while quickly adding “but the mind of a scientist actually never turns off.”

The science in her lab received international recognition earlier this year, when Weimer and others from Sanford Health presented at an international stem cell conference in Vatican City. Three patients have been enrolled in a clinical trial for one type of Batten disease, and the Children’s Health Research Center also is using stem cells to pursue treatments for other rare diseases and neurological disorders.

Behind the scenes is a team of scientists with global reach. Most are scientists in their 20s and 30s who hail from places as diverse as Brazil, Kenya and Italy.

Other team members split time between Sioux Falls and New York or China.

To go behind the scenes at the lab, click here.

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