Life Sciences Fund Awards First Research Grants; Swedish Neurosurgeon, Researcher One of Only Six Aw

Life Sciences Fund Awards First Research Grants; Swedish Neurosurgeon, Researcher One of Only Six Awardees

SEATTLE, Sept. 19, 2007 -- The Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) announced today that it has selected six Washington state research teams to receive more than $4.5 million in the Fund's inaugural grant competition. With support from these new grants, awardees will implement projects aimed at achieving improvements in health-care quality and cost effectiveness.

The awardees include:

  • David Newell, Swedish Intracranial and Intraventricular Hemorrhage with Ultrasound Enhanced Thrombolysis, $170K
  • Daniel Chiu, UW Breast Cancer Metastasis and Treatment Efficacy, $760K
  • David Flum, UW Surgical Care and Outcomes assessment Program, $1.35M
  • William Hagopian, Pacific Northwest Research Institute Diabetes Evaluation in Washington, $980K
  • Philip Hummel, Qualis Health Applying Health IT to Improve Medication Management, $530K
  • Cornelius Ivory, WSU Rapid fingerprinting of cardiac biomarkers, $750K

"The life sciences represent a vision for the future. The projects selected to receive grants not only support my goal to increase access to high-quality health care for all Washingtonians, but will also lead to economic opportunities for our communities," says Governor Chris Gregoire. "In May 2005, I signed into law the legislation that created the Life Sciences Discovery Fund and today I am proud to congratulate the inaugural grantees."

The winning researchers and their organizations have all proposed novel applications of technology to health care. They have designed diagnostic and therapeutic innovations in patient care and system transformations to promote improved health outcomes. Each of the award projects is also structured to promote tangible economic gains for Washington state.

Seventy-five proposals were submitted for this competition. They were reviewed and ranked by panels of experts from outside of Washington convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The reviewers prepared detailed comments on each proposal. They also made recommendations to the LSDF Board of Trustees for funding. The trustees in turn analyzed the proposals and the reviewer's recommendations, and today selected the winners.

"This portfolio of outstanding research projects is the gratifying product of a scrupulous process," says Lura Powell, chair of the board of trustees. "The life sciences community of Washington responded to this first funding opportunity with great enthusiasm. The board made excellent use of the expert reviewers' evaluations and recommendations. And we selected a suite of proposals that in our judgment best meets the Fund's legislative mandate."

Powell, appointed by the governor to chair the new LSDF in 2005, has also served as the director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and director of the Advanced Technology Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

LSDF was authorized by the legislature to invest $350 million of the tobacco settlement bonus payments over 10 years in life sciences research. The first installment of the bonus funds will not be available until April, 2008. As a result, contributions were sought to launch an early, inaugural grant competition, with support provided by a distinguished group of corporate and foundation partners - the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Microsoft, Amgen, Safeco, and Regence BlueShield.

"We are very encouraged by this first competition," says Lee Huntsman, executive director of LSDF. Huntsman, emeritus president of the University of Washington, was tapped to lead LSDF in 2005. "With help from the legislature, a strong vote of confidence from private philanthropists, and vigorous response from applicants, we were able to ramp up and select research projects for funding nearly a year ahead of schedule." He also points to the accomplishment of LSDF's board of trustees in reviewing and selecting award proposals. "Together, these six proposals make up a very strong portfolio of outstanding research. In choosing them, the trustees show that they were mindful of the legislature's goals in investing in life sciences."

The selected projects will focus on innovative applications of technology to improve the effectiveness of surgical procedures, to improve medication management for all patients, and to better diagnose and treat breast cancer, diabetes, stroke, and cardiac arrest. In keeping with LSDF's core investment goals, all the awardees have designed projects aimed not only at measurable health benefits for citizens but also economic benefits for Washington communities. Most selected projects will run for three years, but their results are expected to be felt in the state for years to come.

Before the researchers and organizations named today begin to receive funding from LSDF, they will complete grant agreements with the Fund. The agreements will specify project outcomes, periodic milestones, and progress reports that are required.

"The trustees' selection of these projects," Huntsman says, "is an important step forward. LSDF is in business to help Washington's life sciences organizations and researchers be more successful. In supporting their work, the Fund is advancing the health and economic competitiveness of the state."

About Dr. Newell's Research

Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) occurs in more than 100,000 Americans each year and has no effective treatment. It is fatal in 30 percent to 50 percent of all occurrences and the majority of survivors have significant motor and cognitive disability. The severity of brain injury is related to the volume of blood clot and the exposure time. ICH is easily and rapidly identified. It occurs in younger patients, and it initially produces a smaller injury to the cerebral tissues, suggesting that amelioration is possible with the right intervention that promotes effective blood clot removal. ICH is frequently complicated by intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). IVH increases mortality to as high as 80 percent. IVH obstructs cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow and leads to hydrocephalus. Re-establishing CSF flow is considered a neurosurgical emergency requiring ventricular catheter placement. These catheters control ICP, but do not enhance blood removal. Research demonstrating the value of blood removal suggests that rapid and complete removal is desirable, but rarely achieved with current technology. The long-term goal of this research is to change the way ICH and IVH are treated, reducing brain injury with catheter-based surgical and clinical management. This innovative approach combines local delivery of rt-PA with ultrasound enhancement to provide effective hematoma removal.

About Life Sciences Discovery Fund

Established in May 2005, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund is a Washington State agency that supports innovative research to enhance life sciences competitiveness and improve health and health care. Information about its history, purposes, organization, current funding opportunities, and review process is available on its Web site at www.lsdfa.org. Announced in January as LSDF 07-01, letters of intent were received in March, proposals in May, and selection of awardees was completed today. A second competition - LSDF 07-02 - is already under way. Its awards are expected to be announced in April 2008. It will be supported by Washington state's first installment of the tobacco settlement bonus. For more information, visit www.lsdfa.org

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Media Coverage

  • To read a related article published in the Sept. 19, 2007 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, click here.
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