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Stanford Report, May 6, 1998

$4 million for hepatitis research: 5/6/98

Hepatitis research initiated by Hong Kong-based group

Hutchison Whampoa Limited, a large conglomerate based in Hong Kong, has committed up to $4 million to establish a program dedicated to hepatitis research at Stanford, the Office of Medical Development announced April 24.

The initiative, called the Hutchison Group Program in Translational Medicine, will support studies aimed at improving the health of patients with hepatitis through the translation of scientific breakthroughs, including those in genetic research, into novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. The key goal is to develop approaches that can be rapidly evaluated in clinical trials.

The gift will fund the research initiative over four years, with the second two years of funding contingent upon review of the progress of the program.

The group also has committed $1 million over four years to support the work of Dr. Thomas A. Raffin, professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and co-director of Stanford's Center for Biomedical Ethics. Raffin will co-chair the committee that will select hepatitis research projects for funding.

"Stanford is a leader in the biomedical field, and we are pleased to have this opportunity to work with Stanford on this important project, which holds such great promise in an area of major health concern," said Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist Li Ka-shing, who heads Hutchison Whampoa.

Hutchison Whampoa has major investments and operations in more than 20 countries. Its core businesses include telecommunications and media, property development and investment holdings, ports, infrastructure, energy and oil, and retail and manufacturing.

Dr. Eugene A. Bauer, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, said, "This is an extraordinary gift. It represents the first time that a private-sector philanthropic partner has joined with the Medical Center to launch a program of this magnitude devoted to translational research. This program has significant potential to generate important scientific results to benefit patients with hepatitis worldwide."

More than 300 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus, and millions more are infected with other forms of hepatitis. Hepatitis is the most common cause of liver cancer. In parts of the world where hepatitis is a major health problem, including Southeast Asia, China and Africa, liver cancer accounts for up to half of all cancer cases. Currently, vaccines exist only for some forms of hepatitis, and most available treatments are not universally effective.

Proposals sought by June 1

Teams of Stanford basic scientists, clinical investigators and clinicians are encouraged to submit proposals for funding by the end of this month.

"The projects will be selected based on the application of the most advanced molecular and genetic technologies and the potential to produce important medical breakthroughs that will benefit mankind," said Raffin, who will share leadership of the Hutchison Group Program Selection Committee with Dr. Edward Holmes, vice president and senior associate dean for research.

Successful proposals will include a strategy and timeline for advancing fundamental discovery into new preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic patient outcomes, Raffin said. The gift will support faculty, trainee and staff effort, as well as laboratory and clinical expenses, in molecular, cellular, animal and patient research.

Letters of intent are due in Holmes' office by Monday, June 1. The letters ­ not to exceed five pages in length ­ should include a brief description of the component research projects, the roles of participating faculty members, and specific aims with a clearly articulated set of "deliverables."

The selection committee will use the letters of intent to work with faculty groups to develop the final proposal for the program.

Committee members, in addition to Raffin and Holmes, are Paul Berg, Dr. Ann Arvin, Dr. Klaus Bensch, Dr. Harvey J. Cohen, Dr. David R. Cox, Dr. C. Garrison Fathman, Michael Hindery, Edward Mocarski, W. James Nelson, Christopher T. Scott, Lucy Shapiro, James A. Spudich, Dr. Gary Steinberg and Dr. Judith L. Swain.

Questions on proposal and budget preparation may be directed to Holmes at eholmes@leland.stanford.edu or 498-4379. SR