April 18, 2008

UW Competes Well in Latest Round of Life Sciences Discovery Fund Awards

By Randy Hodgins

It was about three years ago this month that the Governor’s proposal to direct the state’s tobacco settlement bonus dollars into a new Life Sciences Discovery Fund to advance state research efforts in health sciences passed the state legislature.  The bill was a major victory for the Governor in the 2005 session and something the UW and many others worked hard to help get passed.

Well, here we are in 2008 and the first flow of monies from those bonus payments resulting from the Master Tobacco Settlement are coming into the aforementioned life sciences discovery fund.  Yesterday, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund announced a total of $22 million in research awards from the fund to five research projects, three of which will go to researchers at or associated with the University of Washington and on the other two awards, the UW is a collaborating organization.

The five grant awardees and their projects descriptions are:

  • Gail Jarvik, UW.  An award of $5.3 million to build a new infrastructure that will enable clinical investigation using rapid, high volume analysis of genomic data in the area of medical genetics.  Collaborating organization include Group Health Cooperative, Rosetta Inpharmatics LLC and Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center.
  • Patricia Kuhl, UW.  An award of $4.0 million to establish a regional child brain imaging center to utilize the latest in brain imaging technology to measure the young brain in action and explore the basic mechanisms, and the potential underlying problems, the drive early learning and lay the foundation for life-long learning.
  • Martin Cheever, Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium Phase 1 Clinical Trials Program.  An award of $2.2 million to develop a phase 1 cancer clinical trials program for accelerating the development of new cancer fighting drugs.  Collaborating organizations include Wenatchee Valley Medical Center, Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, Skagit Valley Hospital and Clinic Cancer Care in Great Falls, Montana.
  • Richard Smith, Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.  An award of $4.8 million to develop a new proteomics technology and apply it in search of blood biomarkers for liver disease and in subsequent use as a powerful tool in the study of cancer, diabetes and other conditions.  The University of Washington is a collaborating organization.
  • Gerald Nepom, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.  An award of $5.6 million to apply genetic and immunologic discoveries to benefit people with autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS) and lupus.  The University of Washington is a collaborating organization.

In their press release, the Fund states that these five projects were selected by the board from a total of 75 submissions that were evaluated by national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Although this is the first research competition to be funded from tobacco settlement funds, the Fund held an inaugural round last fall using private donor funds.  Another $7 million in grant awards will be made this July.

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