Many health advances have been pioneered at America’s medical schools, including here in Washington state.

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Many health advances have been pioneered at America’s medical schools. The list includes:

  • First polio vaccine
  • First successful pancreas transplant
  • First successful bone marrow transplant
  • First intensive care unit for newborns
  • First human gene therapy for cystic fibrosis
  • First adult human heart transplant in the U.S.
  • First successful liver transplant
  • First successful pediatric heart transplant
  • First successful surgery on a fetus in utero

The value of health sciences research is not only that new therapeutic discoveries help patients. These new businesses generate jobs and economic development. Health sciences research commercialization is a growing segment of the economy in Washington state.

Health sciences research has helped make the state of Washington a global health care leader, stimulating the economy while improving health. WSU-bred health sciences companies are focused on diagnosing and treating diseases and improving quality of life. Here are a few examples:

  • M3 Biotechnology is developing advanced therapeutics to wipe out neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Cancer Targeted Technology is developing diagnostics and therapeutic treatments for prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men.
  • Adaptelligence is focusing on elderly population care using smartphone-based applications that can help the elderly stay safely in their homes.
  • Aavogen focus is on gene therapies for treating muscle wasting diseases such as cancer cachexia, muscular dystrophy and even heart failure.

WSU is a significant contributor to this health sciences research productivity. Over the last decade, WSU’s grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health have increased by 45 percent to an annual total of $31,263,610.

WSU researchers work across multiple levels of scientific analyses with a goal to conduct and support research that helps people live healthier, productive lives.

Sleep research

The Sleep and Performance Research Center works to understand how sleep and (perhaps more familiar to many of us) lack of sleep affect our well-being, safety and productivity.

There is mounting evidence that sleep is essential for performance, safety, health, and well-being. Yet, in today’s 24/7 society, there is a need for people to be awake and at work at all hours of the day. Extended work hours and night and shift work compete with the biological need to sleep and with daily rhythms driven by the biological clock. WSU faculty work to answer critical questions about the effects of reduced and displaced sleep.

Cellular research

Understanding the cellular mechanisms involved in cancer, reproduction and the immune system is a key to unlocking many health care doors.

For example, a simple, single-celled yeast – that type known for its appearance in beer and bread – makes a certain kind of protein lacking in more complex beings, like humans. WSU biochemist Margaret Black recognized that, with a few tweaks, a natural yeast enzyme could have potent anti-tumor power. A targeted cancer therapy that enlists this modified yeast protein was developed and shows promise in early testing in humans

Addiction research

New approaches to curbing addiction to opioids stimulants, alcohol and tobacco offer hope for better outcomes. Researchers at WSU’s Program of Excellence in Addiction Research Center are designing, implementing and evaluating the costs of new behavioral techniques and the therapeutic use of drugs to treat addiction.

Communication research

WSU researchers at the Speech and Language Laboratory are working on methods to improve the early identification, diagnosis and treatment of a number of communication disorders, including those associated with autism spectrum disorders, stuttering, and specific language impairments.

One recent advance may help Parkinson’s patients who have lost the ability to speak at an audible volume. Mark VanDam, WSU Spokane Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, builds and is testing an inexpensive, wearable biofeedback device that uses a microcomputer to alert the user, in real time, for the wearer’s lack of volume control.

Health sciences research provides a strong platform for changing lives, creating jobs and supporting healthier communities. It is the synergy – the added value that comes when medical education, research and patient care are brought together – that makes facilities like the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine effective.

Discovering new scientific knowledge benefits patients, their families and communities. Caring for patients through partnering with physicians who also teach – both new doctors as well as experienced, practicing physicians who are continuing their medical education as part of the clinical faculty – helps keep the community at large healthy and keeps doctors up to date on new developments.

Having strong research and teaching facilities supports health sciences researchers who contribute to the discovery of tomorrow’s cures and new treatments.  Researchers can work alongside health care providers to bring these advances to the patient’s bedside as quickly and safely as possible.

Patients benefit, and so does the state of Washington and its communities.

Washington State University has delivered advanced education for more than 125 years. Its new medical school leverages that experience to achieve new milestones in medical research, innovation, interprofessional education and patient-centered care. Find out more at