$20 million endowment established for bioengineering projects

May 24, 2011, 2:04 a.m.

Stanford University and the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation have established a $20 million endowment to support translating ideas and research into medical treatments and devices, according to a press release from the School of Medicine. This endowment allows the Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Grant Program to continue in perpetuity and was funded by a $10 million grant from the Coulter Foundation, which was matched by the Office of the President.

The grant program was founded five years ago after Stanford became one of nine universities to receive a $5 million grant from the Coulter Foundation for the period between 2006 and 2011. Over those five years, the program funded 25 projects by co-investigators from the Bioengineering Department and a clinical department in the School of Medicine.

Some results of that program include the development of a blood test that could be an alternative to amniocentesis, a new type of surgical dressing that could prevent scarring, a drug that could improve cognition for patients with Down syndrome and a cheap ventilator for hospitals in developing nations that are unable to afford the current models.

These grants differ from those from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies because projects follow the Coulter Process, which outlines a more business-like model, according to bioengineering chair Russ Altman.

“This is more like business,” Altman said in the press release. “The projects have quarterly milestones and can be killed by the oversight committee if the milestones are not met — this is not how academic grants usually go. There is a very strong emphasis on keeping focused on what is needed for successful transfer to professional management via a start-up or a license to an existing company.”

This development process follows that of industry and includes a commercialization analysis as part of the project. This analysis has attracted funding from venture capital and biomedical companies, according to Elias Caro, vice president of technology development at Coulter. Thus far, 12 projects from this program have led to the formation of start-ups or have been licensed by an existing company. The projects have received $43 million in follow-up funds, with nearly half coming from non-government sources.

Ivy Nguyen

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