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Life Sciences Discovery awards health research program grants

Seattle (December 16, 2008) The Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) today announced its latest grant recipients. Four Washington State-based research organizations will receive life sciences program grants totaling more than $18 million. The newly-funded health research initiatives will focus on advancing vaccine development, improving the potential of cardiac resuscitation technology, improving the delivery of mental health and substance abuse services in rural communities, and developing highly-targeted intracellular drug delivery mechanisms. (See Backgrounder Information).

The Life Sciences Discovery Fund awardees are: Lawrence Corey, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Thomas Rea, Seattle & King County (Washington) Department of Public Health; John Roll, Washington State University; and Patrick Stayton, University of Washington.

"The four new Life Sciences Discovery Fund grant recipients represent the breadth and depth of life sciences researchfrom accelerating vaccine development to targeting better drug delivery methods inside human cells, to studying point-of-care resuscitation technology, and to reaching out to rural, underserved populations to improve mental health and substance abuse services. We are proud to award the LSDF program grants to such valuable scientific and public health research endeavors," said Executive Director Lee Huntsman.

The grantees were selected by the Life Sciences Discovery Fund Board of Trustees from among 29 proposals that were evaluated by national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In a rigorous competitive process the proposals were weighted on their scientific merits and their abilities to utilize this funding to provide statewide economic returns, to build a competitive life sciences industry, and to advance health care for Washingtonians.

Funding for the LSDF grant competitions comes from Washington's allocation of bonus payments under the Master Tobacco Settlement, revenues arising from multi-state litigation with tobacco product manufacturers. This group of awardees is the fourth to be funded by LSDF.


Life Sciences Discovery Fund 08-02 Program Proposals

Lawrence Corey, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, $4,727,296

Program title: Washington Vaccine Alliance

Program focus: To develop an integrated, multi-institutional program to stimulate discovery and development of vaccines for widespread use

Scientific and financial constraints throughout the vaccine development process result in delays and high product costs that limit the public health impact of candidate vaccines. Because of these challenges, the firms that develop vaccines do so only when validated animal tests or human clinical trials demonstrate a likelihood of success. The Washington Vaccine Alliance will bring a shared translational research framework and interdisciplinary expertise to vaccine economics, design, formulation, testing, materials production, immune response assessment, and product planning.

Three specific vaccine projects will be initially addressed. One in five adults in Washington State is infected with the herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2. Infectious syphilis cases have doubled in the United States since 2000 and E. coli contamination continues to be a persistent problem in the nation's food sources. Each of these disease agents costs Washington and the nation billions of dollars in treatment and care.

Collaborating organizations: Battelle, Pacific Northwest Division; Infectious Disease Research Institute, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, University of Washington, Washington State University

Thomas Rea, Seattle & King County Department of Public Health, $2,653,031

Program title: Program to Integrate Technology and Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation

Program focus: To improve cardiac resuscitation technology and resuscitation outcomes

Out-of-hospital heart attacks, or sudden cardiac arrests, are a major public health challenge and account for 10 percent of deaths in the United States. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart is unable to circulate blood, usually because of a disorganized heart rhythm. Across the nation emergency medical services (EMS) attempt resuscitation in hundreds of thousands of victims each year with less than 20 percent being successful, indicating an opportunity to advance public health if resuscitation therapies and technology can be improved. Public health researchers from the Seattle & King County Department of Public Health will work to improve on technology applications that affect sudden cardiac arrest outcomes. They will couple clinical resources with corporate and EMS stakeholders whose experience spans the technical, research, and clinical components of resuscitation.

Each year 4,000 Washingtonians suffer a sudden cardiac arrest. Low survival rates indicate room for improvement. Successful resuscitation requires a coordinated, time-sensitive set of rescuer actions that integrate activation of emergency response, CPR, defibrillation, and advanced medical therapies, collectively called the 'links in the chain of survival.' Across these 'links,' there is a strong interface between technology and human. The technologies include defibrillator-monitors, devices that aid CPR, and communication tools. Researchers hope to better integrate these technologies to develop complementary resuscitation methods including active guidance of rescuer actions during resuscitation and innovative approaches for education. Findings and practices will be translated across the state using a web-based training tool and a resuscitation training academy.

Collaborating organizations: University of Washington, Philips Medical, Physio-Control, Inc.

John Roll, Washington State University, $4,048,617

Program title: Program of Excellence in Rural Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Program focus: To improve the delivery of mental health and substance abuse services in rural, underserved communities

The use of evidence-based treatments (EBTs), clinical guidelines that rely on what researchers have found to be effective treatment, has grown in all areas of health care in an effort to reduce errors and improve health. In the field of mental health, most EBTs have been developed for use in urban areas and may not be easily transferable to rural environments. Out of 39 Washington State counties, 23 are classified as rural with more than one million residents.

Applying a translational research approach, the investigators' first priority is to develop, modify, and implement EBTs for substance abuse and mental illness for use in Washington's rural areas. The team's long-term priority is to develop a self-sustaining program that is supported by public and private sector funds to conduct high-quality research for translation into effective treatment protocols. Through the use, refinement, and delivery of EBTs, this group of clinician-researchers seeks to improve the physical and behavioral signs and symptoms of drug and mental health disorders. If successful, the program will provide savings to Washington in the medical and social costs of managing these disorders. Washington State realizes four dollars in benefits for every dollar spent for treatment costs related to delivering treatments for alcohol, drug, and mental health disorders.

Collaborating organizations: Group Health Center for Health Studies, Swedish Medical Center, University of Washington, Washington Department of Social and Health Services

Patrick Stayton, University of Washington, $7,163,794

Program title: Center for Intracellular Delivery of Biologics

Program focus: To better deliver drugs to their site of action within cells

With mainstream delivery methods a drug often gets 'lost' and does not reach the proper area within a patient's body to have the designated effect. A multi-disciplinary research center with three coresdrug characterization, smart delivery systems, and preclinical modelswill be created where scientists will develop new approaches for delivering biological drugs inside human cells. Highly-targeted delivery and release of these drugs to their sites of action inside the cells optimize drug therapy in defined cell populations and minimize damage to other areas of the body.

Cancer and pulmonary trauma are leading causes of death in Washington and across the nation and result in millions of inpatient hospital days. Using polymer chemistry and nanotechnology, the center investigators will develop new technology platforms by evaluating the safety and effectiveness of drug delivery systems for these medical conditions. This program will identify new intracellular drug vehicles for clinical use that could result in many new commercialization opportunities.

Collaborating organization: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center


Contact: Dianne Needham
Life Sciences Discovery Fund

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