UW News

May 12, 1997

Allen Foundation pledges $3.2 million for prostatitis research at the University of Washington

The Paul G. Allen Foundation for Medical Research has committed $3.2 million for research at the University of Washington into the causes of and cures for prostatitis, a common but under-studied infection of the prostate gland.
The foundation will contribute approximately $552,000 annually for the next five years to underwrite research into prostatitis conducted by the UW School of Medicine’s Department of Urology. The research is under the direction of Dr. Richard E. Berger, professor of urology. The balance of the funding will go toward laboratory renovations and equipment costs.

The UW has already completed a number of significant research projects on prostatitis, funded by more than $1 million in earlier contributions from the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist.

UW President Richard L. McCormick expressed gratitude for the gift and cited the “remarkable support in many areas” that Paul Allen and the foundations he has created have provided at the University of Washington. While some of those contributions — notably the Allen Library and the Henry Art Gallery expansion — have been very visible, others have been less so.

“This splendid gift continues and enhances the Allen Foundation’s investment in medical research, an area of giving that has been very important to the University but one that many people did not know about,” said McCormick.

“We are pleased to support the University’s groundbreaking research efforts and we hope that in some significant way, our gift will help to conquer this disease,” said Jody Allen Patton, executive director of the Allen Foundations.

“Past financial support from the Allen Foundation has already made the UW the leader in prostatitis research,” said Berger. “We have made many exciting discoveries that will offer benefits for men with chronic prostatitis. This generous new support will enable us to significantly broaden our efforts.”

Despite the prevalence of prostatitis, there has been limited research into the condition, which may be the most common urologic disease of young and middle-aged men. Research has focused on the other maladies of the prostate: benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH or enlarged prostate) and prostate cancer. Many men with BPH have symptoms of prostatitis as well.

Estimates are that up to 50 percent of men will experience symptoms of prostatitis in their lifetimes. Symptoms can be varied and severe, including genital and bladder pain, inflammation, urinary problems, and perhaps infertility. While it is often dismissed as a minor condition, the decline in quality of life with prostatitis is similar to that experienced with congestive heart failure, according to UW research. Prostatitis is frequently difficult to diagnose, and causes are usually not clear. The various bacteria known to cause it often become resistant to antibiotics.

Research directions with the new funding will include studies of the microbiology and molecular biology of prostatic tissue, development of diagnostic tests and treatment protocols, studies of host resistance factors that may cause susceptibility to infection, epidemiologic studies, and studies to determine any relationships to BPH and prostate cancer.

The Paul G. Allen Foundation for Medical Research promotes medical research in a variety of disciplines, including biochemistry, biomedical engineering, virology, immunology, cell and molecular biology, pharmacology and genetics. It is particularly dedicated to cancer research. In 1996, the foundation gave $1 million to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center and $2 million to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The medical foundation is one of five Allen foundations dedicated to projects serving the Pacific Northwest. The others are the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation, the Allen Foundation for the Arts, the Paul G. Allen Forest Protection Foundation, and the Experience Music Project Foundation.