State Relations

March 6, 2007

Amendment to ISM Bill Could Tap Life Sciences Fund

Yesterday during the cut-off hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Senator Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield) successfully hung an amendment on a measure which would make a new life sciences research entity in Spokane area potentially eligible for Life Sciences Discovery Fund monies.

SSB 5616 would create a health sciences and services authority in Spokane with the intention of using the Institute for Systems Medicine to expand health sciences research and biotechnology development in the area.  Funding is intended to come from the state general fund in the form of a state tax diversion of approximately $5 to $6 million per year.

The Zarelli amendment would instead permit funding for the authority to come from the Life Sciences Discovery Fund instead of the state general fund.  The problem this creates is that the Fund (which is estimated to be about $35 million per year beginning in 2008), is intended to be competitive and awarded to the most meritorious projects as determined through a peer review process.  The amendment potentially creates ambiguity about whether the Fund would be used to fund the ongoing operational costs of a new research entity as opposed to a being solely available for competitive research proposals.

As a member of the Life Sciences Fund Coalition, the UW is concerned about this amendment to SSB 5616 and will work with other coalition partners to insure that the Life Sciences Discovery Fund remains available for competitive research project funding.