State Tobacco Cash Funneled Into Vaccines, Biotech Drug Delivery, Cardiac Arrest, and Mental Health Research

Xconomy Seattle — 

(Update: This story has added information on the six finalists that fell short in their bid for state grants.)

Washington’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund just made a bunch of biomedical researchers either very happy, or highly disappointed. The 10-year, $350 million initiative, which takes money from the state tobacco settlement, chose to pump almost $19 million into four grant proposals that explore development of new vaccines, improved ways to treat cardiac arrest, rural mental health, and how to better deliver biotech drugs into cells.

This was a big round of grants for the fund. Before today, the quasi-state agency had divvied out 17 grants to researchers worth a combined $32 million. I got an update on the strategy of the program, and it’s progress thus far, in September during an interview with executive director Lee Huntsman. A total of 29 grant applications were sent in, and 10 of them were closely scrutinized through interviews by reviewers with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the board’s trustees. “All of them were of high scientific and technical merit,” said Lura Powell, chair of the board of trustees.

The aim of these grants, Powell said on today’s conference call, is to advance health care for Washington residents, strengthen the local economy, and promote the region’s competitiveness as a global biotech hub.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the newest grant recipients announced today. All of them won by a unanimous votes.

Lawrence Corey, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a leader in the global movement for an HIV vaccine, won a $4.7 million grant as the lead investigator of the Washington Vaccine Alliance that aims to develop new vaccines for wider use. The collaboration includes researchers at Battelle’s Northwest Division, the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, the University of Washington, Washington State University, and PATH, the Seattle-based nonprofit that aims to improve global health.

Thomas Rea of Seattle/King County’s Department of Public Health won a $2.7 million grant to help improve technologies for treating cardiac arrest. The agency is collaborating on this work with the University of Washington, Philips Healthcare, and Physio-Control. The companies are known for developing external defibrillators, which can be used to shock a faltering heart … Next Page »

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