Seattle, WA – May 30, 2024

Washington Research Foundation (WRF) has awarded nearly $2.2 million in new grant funding to researchers at four nonprofit institutions in Washington state. WRF funded 12 teams of investigators at Fred Hutch Cancer Center (Fred Hutch), the Seattle Hub for Synthetic Biology, the University of Washington (UW) and Washington State University (WSU) to develop detailed plans for projects and programs that could significantly advance the state’s life-science ecosystem and improve lives.

WRF concluded an eight-month strategic planning process last year and committed to increasing its support of big, emergent opportunities in the region over the next five years. The call for planning grants was one way to surface ideas for such opportunities. Another program that resulted from the strategic planning process was a call to support IND-enabling and clinical studies for novel therapeutics. Awards made through that program will be announced in the coming weeks.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, each team will use its planning grant to develop a proposal for a large-scale initiative—potentially on a similar scale to the Invent at Seattle Children’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program that WRF has supported since its launch in 2022—for submission to WRF and/or other funding agencies. In its RFP for this award, WRF encouraged investigators to consider elements including potential collaborations between institutions, building diverse, equitable and inclusive innovation ecosystems, and exploring commercialization paths for new technologies to address unmet public needs in the region.

WRF awarded a total of $2,190,486 to support comprehensive planning for the following projects:

  • Jennifer Adair, Ph.D., will lead the development of a funding proposal for Bridging the Clinical Gap: Adding Value to the “Discovered Here in Washington” Therapeutic Ecosystem at Fred Hutch
  • Joshua Hill, MD, will lead Immunotherapeutic Approaches to Prevent and Treat Infections in Immunocompromised Hosts: The ImmunoPTImize Network at Fred Hutch
  • Andrew Hsieh, MD, will lead Towards an integrated research ecosystem on bladder cancer heterogeneity in the Pacific Northwest at Fred Hutch
  • Jay Shendure, MD, Ph.D., will lead SeaHub Programmable Cells & Genomes Network (PCGN) at the Seattle Hub for Synthetic Biology
  • Jennifer Davis, Ph.D., will lead Platforms of Human Aging and Disease in a Dish (PHADD) Technical Hub at UW
  • Elizabeth Nance, Ph.D., will lead A Pipeline for Novel Engineered Neurotherapeutics in Newborns at UW
  • Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, Ph.D., will lead Washington Initiative for Neuroscience (WIN) at UW
  • Kelly Stevens, Ph.D., will lead Volumetric Imaging and Spatial Tissue Analysis (VISTA) at UW
  • Jayanth Panyam, Ph.D., will lead Institute for Drug Delivery at UW
  • Kevin Murphy, Ph.D., will lead Optimizing human health and nutrition from Soil to Society at WSU
  • Jon Oatley, Ph.D., will lead WA Consortium on Reproductive Health at WSU
  • Ken Roberts, Ph.D., will lead Planning a Center of Excellence for Translational Neuroscience (CETN) at WSU

Meher Antia, Ph.D., WRF’s director of grant programs, said that the planning grants are intended to give investigators the time and resources to fully map out ideas for ambitious and achievable high-impact projects that could significantly improve lives in Washington state and beyond.

“We were delighted to see the interest that was generated by our call for creative, collaborative ideas that would spur innovation in Washington,” Antia said. “The planning grants are just the beginning of a process that we hope will result in long-term impact in a broad variety of life science areas.”