UW News

August 21, 2000

Washington Research Foundation supports UW’s Cell Systems Initiative

The Washington Research Foundation has made a $250,000 grant to the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Cell Systems Initiative (CSI). CSI is a research and educational program whose mission is to understand the dynamic information systems in cells.

By understanding disease processes at the cellular level, CSI will be able to capitalize on genomic information and incorporate this information into novel and precise drug discovery processes.

CSI includes industry and academic participants in collaborative research studies, focused on integrating genomic and functional information, powerful bioinformatics and novel experimental techniques to expand understanding of human disease. Dr. Bob Franza is the director of CSI and a research professor in the School of Medicine’s molecular biotechnology department.

“CSI will elucidate the structure and functions of cells, which opens the door to teaching, research and the creation of intellectual property,” said Ron Howell, president of WRF. “We want to be one of the early supporters of what — as Bob
Franza has said — might be 50 or more years of continuous research and discovery nurtured within the extensively interdisciplinary culture of CSI at UW.”

Washington Research Foundation (WRF), an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1981, seeks to create wealth to support research and scholarship at Washington state institutions.

CSI has previously received investments of money, staff and technology from Immunex Corp. and Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc.

“WRF?s generous support of CSI represents both a significant capital infusion and a significant validation of the interdisciplinary culture we are developing in order to pursue a focused understanding of the systems properties of cells and organisms,” Franza said.

CSI involves scientists from many UW departments in the School of Medicine and College of Engineering, including bioengineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, computer science and engineering, and materials science and engineering.

“When you get a lot of bright intellects together, interesting things will happen,” Howell says.

WRF was created initially to patent and license new research-based technologies from the University of Washington and other state institutions. It continues to engage in licensing activities for patents dating from its earlier work. The primary focus of the organization shifted about 1992, however, to supporting the creation of early-stage, technology-based start-up companies that have strong ties to the University of Washington and other nonprofit research institutions in Washington. Support is provided by a fund of more than $30 million managed by WRF Capital.

WRF makes annual disbursements and grants to the University of Washington and other research institutions in the state. Additionally, WRF-negotiated license agreements have resulted in more than $6 million of realized gain. This licensing-derived equity is in addition to WRF’s royalty payments and gifts to the University of Washington. Payments to the University of Washington in 1999 totaled $10.8 million; in addition, WRF gave $1.5 million in grants and other donations.