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Washington Life Sciences Discovery Fund announces grants to commercialize promising technologies

SEATTLE, Washington, February 8, 2011 The Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) today announced nearly $600,000 in awards to support commercial development of technologies to improve the diagnosis and management of major health conditions.

Two of the four new grants are aimed at producing novel tests to diagnose or monitor disease. Jane Burns at Seattle Children's Hospital, in conjunction with Enertechnix, a Washington-based company, will adapt a novel air sampling device to collect exhaled breath for non-invasive detection of lung infections. Patrick Stayton at the University of Washington will develop new reagents to increase the speed and sensitivity of laboratory tests (known as immunoassays) used for diagnosing and monitoring disorders such as cancer and heart disease.

The remaining two grants focus on better management of neurological conditions. Christopher Bernards at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason will test a device, developed by the University of Washington and Seattle-based Impel NeuroPharma, that delivers drugs directly to the brain, potentially reducing harmful side effects. Barry Lutz at the University of Washington will use his award to develop an improved drainage system to reduce intracranial pressure in patients with brain disorders or trauma.

The awards were made in the second round of the 2010 commercialization grant competition, which promotes the translation of promising technologies from Washington's non-profit research sector into marketable products and services having the power to improve health, foster economic growth, and enhance life sciences competitiveness in the state.

"The Board of Trustees was particularly impressed with the 'platform potential' of these awards," noted LSDF executive director Lee Huntsman. "These are multi-application technologies. Even though the LSDF grant may focus on use for a single purpose, such as detecting bacteria in cystic fibrosis patients or reducing pain, each technology could have much broader applicability for diagnosing or treating a wide array of patients. This significantly enhances the potential for commercial success and for improving health and health care in Washington and beyond."

Commercialization grants are intended to boost technologies trapped in the so-called "valley of death" (that portion of the product development cycle in which funding is the most difficult to obtain) and make them more amenable to funding from the private sector. Tom Clement, Director of New Ventures-Life Sciences at the University of Washington Center for Commercialization (C4C), stated that "LSDF commercialization grants are a key component of C4C's mission of moving research discoveries out of the lab and into people's lives. These grants support proof-of-concept studies and other critical activities that help our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence and other expert advisors guide research outcomes into products to improve human health."

The four awards were chosen from the 10 proposals received in the competition. A panel of national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science evaluated the scientific and technical merit of the projects, while a panel of commercialization experts assessed each project's commercial potential and possible health and economic benefits. The LSDF Board of Trustees made the final award selections.

According to Lura Powell, chair of the LSDF Board of Trustees, getting new technologies into widespread use usually includes forming new companies or establishing partnerships with existing companies. Each of the four awards involves or anticipates the launch of a Washington-based company, in line with LSDF's mission to enhance the Washington economy. "These young technologies will not have an impact on human health without company involvement. We are pleased to use our commercialization grant funding to both move the technologies forward and encourage the development of Washington's for-profit life sciences sector," she stated.


Contact: Cathy Manner
Life Sciences Discovery Fund

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