Obama Stimulus Plan May Generate $300M Research Windfall, UW Says

3/23/09Follow @xconomy

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with a $330 million annual research budget, scientists are sharpening up their applications for sophisticated equipment that can be kept in a “core facility” that can be shared by multiple researchers, said Ulrich Mueller, the Hutchinson Center’s vice president for technology transfer.

“We’ll get some very expensive new equipment which will increase our ability to do excellent research,” Mueller said during the panel discussion. When I approached him after the panel was over, he said this equipment could include mass spectrometers that can perform precise measurements of the molecular weight of proteins, or sophisticated genetic analysis machines that perform full genome sequencing, or can tell which genes are turned on or off in tissue samples, that might compare cancer cells to healthy cells.

He agreed with Rhoads that the pressure is on scientists there to get their applications in, and to think about how to meet that tighter-than-usual two-year deadline to show results. “We’re not calling them shovel ready programs, they’re beaker ready programs,” Mueller said, meaning these are experiments that can get moving quickly. Almost all of the scientists there are working on an additional one or two grant applications as part of the stimulus, he said.

The same thing is happening at Oregon Health & Science University, says Arundeep Pradhan, the center’s director of technology and research collaborations. OHSU’s research budget is about $300 million, although he told me after the panel that “we haven’t been so bold” as to predict how much of the stimulus it expects to capture for Oregon researchers. New equipment and new proposals are part of the push, although some grants that just missed the cut might get another chance for federal support, Pradhan says.

“It’s still excellent science we’re talking about,” Pradhan says.

It’s hard to measure, but since the life sciences industry depends heavily on strong research institutions, this could create a ripple effect for years to come. As Rhoads pointed out during the panel, the Seattle area doesn’t have an anchor biotech company, and that leaves UW as the main producer of bright ideas, and the main educator of scientists and entrepreneurs to keep the local life sciences industry moving. “In the absence of a large company, we are the anchor tenant,” Rhoads said.

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  • Golden

    While the UW is a research powerhouse, according to the National Science Foundation it is actually the 6th ranked public research university following UCSF, Wisconsin-Madison, UCLA, Michigan and UCSD.

  • Clydia Cuykendall

    I would be careful about calling any part of the Obama Stimulus Plan a “windfall”, given the number of new homeless, hungry, or jobless people suffering as a result this recession. Maybe I’ll give my annual UofW donation to a Foodd Bank instead.