SEATTLE, Washington, September 27, 2011— Four Washington-based teams of investigators will receive up to $150,000 each to support commercial development of new health and health-care products, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund announced today.
Three of the grants, led by investigators at the University of Washington, focus on detection and diagnosis of medical conditions. Dr. David Linker will assess the effectiveness of a small and inexpensive device as a screening tool for atrial fibrillation, a known cause of stroke. Dr. Pierre Mourad will test an ultrasound device that health-care providers can use to identify the sources and extent of deep pain. Dr. Kenneth Schenkman will improve his team's prototype device for early detection of medical shock.
The fourth grant, led by Dr. Diane Cook at Washington State University, will test computerized technology that monitors older adults, provides reminders to perform key tasks, and may ultimately allow them to remain in their own homes longer.
These awards were made in the first round of the 2011 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.
"All of these awards involve testing of prototype products in clinical or community settings, allowing the teams to collect data on efficacy and user satisfaction in 'real-world' environments that will be critical for developing final products and obtaining regulatory approvals for market launch. We are pleased to use our funding to support such endeavors, which are essential for effective product commercialization," stated LSDF executive director Lee Huntsman.
John DesRosier, LSDF director of programs, further explained that commercialization grants, by supporting vital "proof-of-concept" studies, help 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 help position them for follow-on funding from the private sector. "These grants can make a huge difference in the life of a promising technology by developing compelling data packages that can help attract additional resources to accelerate commercialization."
The awards were chosen from the 13 proposals reviewed 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.
Lura Powell, chair of the LSDF Board of Trustees, noted that Washington-based companies are key partners for all of the new grants. "This corporate involvement not only aligns with LSDF's mission to enhance Washington's economy, but also is crucial for product commercialization and market penetration. As trustees, we view commercialization grant funding as an important means to encourage in-state public-private partnerships, both to advance specific products and to reap economic and health benefits for Washington as a whole."
Funding for commercialization grant awards comes from donations to LSDF by Amgen, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Group Health Cooperative, Microsoft Corporation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Regence BlueShield, and Safeco Insurance Foundation; and from Washington's allocation of payments under the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement of 1998, revenues arising from multi-state litigation with tobacco product manufacturers.