West Wireless Health Institute Gets Another $25M, Announces New Partnerships

Xconomy San Diego — 

If nothing else, the West Wireless Health Institute knows how to make a splash.

The San Diego-based nonprofit research institute, which made its debut in March 2009 by announcing a $45 million grant, is hosting an open house this evening that represents the first chance most people have had to tour the recently remodeled, three-story, 36,000 square-foot facility.

West Wireless Health

West Wireless Health

The West Institute is in an ideal location atop Torrey Pines Mesa (within the vaunted 92037 zip code), basically between The Salk Institute and The Scripps Research Institute—and just opposite the northwest corner of the UC San Diego campus. Shortly after guests begin to arrive, the West Wireless Health Institute is issuing a series of public announcements that underscore just how well positioned it really is. The new developments include:

—The Gary and Mary West Foundation, the family foundation established by telemarketing entrepreneurs Gary and Mary West, have donated an additional $25 million to the institute. The funding, which follows a $20 million grant announced last month (and the initial $45 million grant 15 months ago), will be used to accelerate the institute’s core mission, which is to lower health care costs by advancing technology innovations in mobile health. The extra funding, which brings the foundation’s total support to $90 million, also will be used to recruit engineering talent.

The institute currently has 42 employees, a substantial increase since the first five staffers moved in at the end of 2009. But Don Casey, who was just named as the institute’s CEO three months ago, plans to grow even more. In a statement released before the event, Casey says, “We must ensure the top engineers and multi-disciplinary researchers in the U.S. and beyond are developing efficient and effective wireless health solutions.”

The institute’s engineering department consists of an interdisciplinary team of engineers and post-doctoral researchers with expertise in microsystems, bioengineering, analytics and algorithms, biomedical circuitry, nanotechnology, software design and user experience, wireless communications, and other specialities.

— The West Wireless Health Institute and the Carlos Slim Health Institute in Mexico City say they will collaborate to advance wireless health solutions in the United States, Mexico, and throughout Latin America. The Carlos Slim Health Institute was founded in 2007 by the Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helú, who was named the richest person in the world three months ago by Forbes magazine. Slim, who ranked third last year on the Forbes list of world billionaires, jumped to the top of this year’s list after his estimated family net worth soared by $18.5 billion—to $53.5 billion.

The two partner organizations say they will focus on developing innovative technologies intended to lower health care costs and address unmet medical needs, particularly for the most at-risk populations.

—The institute also named San Diego-based CareFusion (NYSE: CFN), San Jose, CA-based Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), and Minneapolis, MN-based Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), as technology and education partners, joining GE Healthcare, Qualcomm, and Scripps Health in the institute’s global research, technology, and educational initiatives. The West Wireless Institute says these partnerships are based on the mutual exchange of ideas, technical assistance, and expertise, and do not involve financial support for the institute’s operations.

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