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WE-REACH: Fostering a growing community of biomedical innovators

Written by Debra Bouchegnies / February 19, 2020

The University of Washington has created a new integrated center –Washington Entrepreneurial Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (WE-REACH) to match biomedical discoveries with the resources needed to bring innovative products to the public and improve public health. The center is one of five national commercialization hubs selected for funding by the NIH in 2019.

“Spinning life science innovations out of research institutions require expertise and funding that is hard to source in the academic environment,” adds Fiona Wills, assistant vice president, innovation development at CoMotion, UW’s collaborative innovation hub. “WE-REACH builds on the infrastructure CoMotion has developed, including our gap fund and training, to provide critical resources needed to de-risk promising technologies into preclinical and clinical development.”

CoMotion will support this initiative by committing $250,000 of gap funding annually. The National Institutes of Health will match this with funding of $4 M. Furthermore, CoMotion’s mentor network will bring essential expertise and support to the program that will grant funds to aid four to six biomedical startups a year for up to $200,000. Those projects will include innovative disease treatments, new drugs, diagnostics, genetic testing, and health technologies. The first grant review cycle will take place with the spring Innovation Gap Fund cycle. The potential to make an impact and sow prospects for future funding will be the primary determinants for which projects will be awarded funding. The gap funding commitment stems from the belief that WE-REACH will further strengthen CoMotion-supported projects.

CoMotion partnered with the UW School of Pharmacy, Institute for Translational Health Sciences, and UW Institute for Protein Design to welcome this biomedical funding and education program to the University of Washington. Wills, along with colleague Jeanette Ennis, associate director of innovation investments, are part of the WE-REACH leadership group. The new center will be located in the South Campus Center on the University of Washington’s Seattle campus and at the Institute of Translational Health Sciences in UW Medicine South Lake Union. It will be staffed by Professor Rodney Ho, Executive Director; Terri Butler, Associate Director of Outreach and Partnerships; Matthew Hartman, Coordinator; Christine Jonsson, Administrator; and new hires in project management and technology management roles.

See more in this University of Washington press release.