A who’s-who of wealthy people and foundations with ties to the Pacific Northwest — along with more than 3,000 individual donors — have given more than $20 million to boost UW Medicine’s coronavirus testing and research.

The biggest single gift is $10 million from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie. Announced previously, the money will be used to increase capacity at the UW Virology lab, which has processed about 70% of all tests in Washington for the new coronavirus. The lab has been handling about 2,000 specimens a day and plans to ramp up to more than 5,000 daily by the end of this week, providing results to patients in six to 24 hours.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, donated $10 million, which will to be used to increase capacity at the UW Virology lab, which has processed about 70% of all tests in Washington for the new coronavirus. (Evan Vucci / The Associated Press, 2011)
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, donated $10 million, which will to be used to increase capacity at the UW Virology lab, which has processed about 70% of all tests in Washington for the new coronavirus. (Evan Vucci / The Associated Press, 2011)

“Right now, our community needs philanthropy to help address urgent needs, like expanded testing and protection and care for our most vulnerable, exposed by the COVID-19 crisis,” said a statement from the Ballmers, co-founders of the Ballmer Group. “We are grateful that UW Medicine is working on all fronts to strengthen our community’s response and to help save lives.”

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation donated $2 million for COVID-19 outreach to unsheltered people, while the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust provided $350,000 for COVID-19 testing. The Washington Research Foundation donated $200,000 for testing, supplies and personal protective equipment for health care workers.

Other major donors, whose gifts range from $200,0000 to $2 million, include the family of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; Susan Brotman; the Neukom Family; Google co-founder Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy; Christine and Bryan White; Costco co-founder James Sinegal and his wife, Janet; and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife, Anu.

More than 3,300 other individual donations, ranging from $5 to $199,000, add up to an additional $1.1 million.

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All the money is part of the UW Medicine Emergency Response Fund, which hopes to raise $50 million.

Some of the funding will go to accelerate research on possible treatments for the new coronavirus and efforts to monitor its spread and forecast the course of the pandemic.

“Understanding more about the virus is the first step in being able to stop it,” said a statement from the Bezos family. “UW Medicine has been an early leader in responding to COVID-19 and is well-positioned to continue translating key insights to inform practice in real time.”

UW Medicine and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are testing their employees for COVID-19 at drive-thru testing sites. Nurses test symptomatic staff, faculty and trainees from their cars. (Ken Lambert & Lauren Frohne / The Seattle Times)

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