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January 7, 2011

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Message from Paul Ramsey

Paul G. Ramsey

UW Medicine researchers made major breakthroughs in 2010

Dear Colleagues: 

Each year brings new opportunities at UW Medicine to collaborate and advance our mission of improving health. In reviewing UW Medicine activities in preparation for my upcoming annual address, I have been impressed with the depth and breadth of progress at UW Medicine in 2010. Despite the continuing financial turmoil in our state, nation, and world, UW Medicine faculty, staff, students and trainees did a remarkable job in 2010 of staying focused on improving health and working efficiently, cost-effectively, collaboratively, and productively. 

In the 2010 Breakthroughs of the Year list published recently in Science, two stories featured breakthroughs in which UW Medicine faculty were involved. One story described advances in genomics through massively parallel sequencing methods. The 1000 Genomes Project, an effort to catalog genetic variation in about 2,500 people, resulted in three pilot studies in 2010. These identified 15 million single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs), including 8.5 million novel ones — information that can be used to help track down mutations that cause diseases. Debbie Nickerson, professor of genome sciences, is on the steering committee of the 1000 Genomes Project. 

Evan Eichler, UW professor of genome sciences, and his colleagues used findings from the 1000 Genomes Project pilot phase to identify subtle differences among people in areas of the genome where DNA sequences are often repeated many times. The team developed a technique to count the number of copies of a gene in any duplicated region. Peter Sudmant and Jacob Kitzman, graduate students in the Department of Genome Sciences, were co-first authors on the paper published in Science in October 2010 that described the methods. Eichler’s team has also developed a technique to distinguish near-identical copies that, over time, can develop slight sequence differences that may affect how a gene works. This research is changing the face of genetic studies, potentially allowing future exploration of the most complex genetic regions of the human genome and their contributions to health and illness.    

The Science feature also cited the extensive cataloging of the functional genomes of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. Bob Waterston, professor and chair of the Department of Genome Sciences and the William Gates III Endowed Chair in Biomedical Sciences, is senior author of a December 24 Science article that documented the cataloguing of the roundworm’s DNA sequences by an international team of investigators. The roundworm genome shows evidence for thousands of new, refined gene transcripts, along with thousands of new non-protein coding RNAs that, among other functions, regulate gene expression. 

A second Science citation in the Science 2010 Breakthroughs of the Year described progress in finding the DNA responsible for rare genetic disorders. This story described progress in late 2009 among geneticists in sequencing the exomes, or protein-coding DNA, of patients with Mendelian disorders. UW Medicine investigators were responsible for the first-ever location of a rare, single-gene disorder using exome sequencing, successfully identifying the mutations behind Miller syndrome. UW authors of that study included co-first authors Sarah Ng, a graduate student in the Department of Genome Sciences, and Kati Buckingham, a research scientist in the Department of Pediatrics, senior authors Jay Shendure, assistant professor of genome sciences, and Michael Bamshad, professor of pediatrics and adjunct professor of genome sciences, and a number of other individuals from the Departments of Genome Sciences and Pediatrics, as well as researchers elsewhere. 

Many members of the same team led a second study that used exome sequencing to assess genetic samples from 10 unrelated children diagnosed with Kabuki syndrome. This work, specifically cited in the Science year-end review, resulted in the discovery of genetic alterations that may account for a majority of Kabuki syndrome cases. Ng and Abigail Bigham, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics Division of Genetic Medicine, were co-lead authors and Shendure and Bamshad were senior authors.  

These remarkable findings are indicative of the extraordinary talent and discipline among our faculty involved in research at UW Medicine. I anticipate that 2011 will be another landmark year in research activities in the areas described above, as well as in many other research endeavors.


PGRamsey Signature2


Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington




  UW Medicine scientists among international consortium to conduct first-ever analysis of roundworm genome

The first-ever integrated analysis of the molecular processes that control genome function in an animal – in this case, the roundworm – has the potential to speed understanding of the molecular processes in human cells, according to a study in the Dec. 24 issue of Science.

The paper, Integrative Analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans Genome by the modENCODE Project, was authored by an international group of scientists that includes UW Medicine researchers.

“Our in-depth studies of the worm genome have revealed and refined the structure of thousands of protein coding genes and helped to define when in the life cycle and in what cells these genes are used,” said Robert Waterston, UW professor of genome sciences and the paper's senior author. Waterston is also the William Gates III Endowed Chair in Biomedical Sciences and chair of the UW Department of Genome Sciences.

Waterston is a member of the model organism ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements (modENCODE) Consortium, the international group of scientists who authored the paper. The work is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The roundworm and the fruit fly genome sequences were initially sequenced alongside the Human Genome Project and are routinely compared to the human genome sequence in experiments that rely on millions of years of evolution. The authors found that particularly important stretches of DNA in the genome are “conserved,” or retained, throughout evolutionary history.

“The deep evolutionary connection between flies, worms and humans makes research in these model organisms highly relevant to human biology,” Waterston said. An internationally recognized scientific leader in gene mapping and DNA sequencing, Waterston played a crucial role in the sequencing of the roundworm genome, the world's first of a multicellular organism and later in the mapping and sequencing of the human genome.

“These findings will enable scientists everywhere to carry out experiments in fruit flies and roundworms to better understand the relationship between molecular and biological activities in these animals,” said NHGRI Director Eric D. Green. “What we learn from these model organisms will contribute greatly to our understanding about the genomic basis of health and disease in humans.”

Robert Waterston explains the recent genome project on YouTube.  

   Lalitha Ramakrishnan and Ram Samudrala receive NIH Director's Pioneer Award

Lalitha RamakrishnanLalitha Ramakrishnan and Ram Samudrala were among 17 scientists nationwide to receive the most recent round of the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. The awards are designed to support individual scientists who propose pioneering and possibly transforming approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. Each receives $500,000 a year for five years to support their research activities.

Ramakrishnan, UW professor of microbiology and adjunct professor of immunology, received the award for her project, Linking the Behavior of Individual Host Cells to their Transcriptional Signatures. She studies the pathogenesis of tuberculosis and the basis of different susceptibilities to the disease. Her laboratory has developed zebrafish infection by Mycobnacterium marinum as a powerful surrogate model for exploring tuberculosis pathogenesis. Findings made in the zebrafish have been borne out in human populations and are informing new strategies for intervention.

Ram SamudralaSamudrala, UW associate professor of  microbiology, was awarded the prize for his study, Novel Paradigms for Drug Recovery: Computational Multitarget Screening. His lab develops computational algorithms to model, annotate, and understand the relationships between the sequences, structures, functions, and interactions of proteins, DNA, and metabolites, at both the molecular and the genomic/systems levels. His project will create a comprehensive drug discovery platform by enhancing a novel technique for dynamic screening of small molecule compounds against the multiple protein targets from infectious disease-causing pathogens.

Visit the National Institutes of Health more information about the NIH Pioneer Awards.



Clinical Care

    Annual Harborview Gala set for Feb. 26

Harborview ExteriorThe 19th Annual Salute Harborview Gala, the premier fundraising event for Harborview Medical Center, will be held at 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. One hundred percent of the Gala’s net proceeds benefit Harborview’s Mission of Caring Fund, which helps Harborview serve vulnerable populations and provide world-class care to patients from throughout the region.

The Gala raised $1.8 million in 2010 and more than $6 million over the past five years. The community chairs for the 2011 Gala are Vicki and Albert Rosellini, Jr.

Each year Harborview honors those whose lives and work exemplify Harborview’s mission of caring for people from all walks of life with its Mission of Caring Award. This year, the following living governors of Washington state will be honored for their dedicated public service: Governors Albert D. Rosellini (1957-1965), Daniel J. Evans (1965-1977), John D. Spellman (1981-1985), Booth Gardner (1985-1993), Michael E. Lowry (1993-1997), Gary Locke (1997-2005), and Christine Gregoire (2005-present).

The Gala will also feature patient Christian Kapena Ho, 17, who will recount how Harborview’s life-saving and technologically advanced care led to his miraculous recovery from a swimming accident that could have claimed his life.

Gala guests will enjoy dinner, dancing, a limited auction, and music by The Frustrations.

The Gala is presented by the Western Washington Toyota Dealers Association.

Learn more about the Gala. Register to attend the 19th Annual Salute Harborview Gala. Follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.


Education and Training

    New biosafety training required for researchers and lab workers 

Effective February 2011, the Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Biosafety Training course is required, per findings of the 2009 NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities (OBA) "not for cause" site visit. The course is required for all Principal Investigators (PIs), trainees, students, and staff if their laboratory work/research involves any recombinant DNA and/or other biohazards. Biohazards include the following:

  • All forms of recombinant DNA, including transgenic animals and plants
  • Pathogenic agents (bacteria, rickettsia, fungi, prions, protozoa and other parasites)
  • Plants, animals and waste materials that may contain recombinant DNA or pathogenic organisms
  • Human and non-human primate tissue, blood, body fluid and cell culture (primary cultures and cell lines)

This is a general biosafety training course, which covers roles and responsibilities when conducting research with recombinant DNA and/or other biohazardous agents. The course also covers the review and approval process for research with biohazardous agents at the University of Washington and the requirements governing their use (e.g., facilities, equipment, practices).

Completion of the EH&S Biosafety Training course will be required as a condition of approval for all new projects and renewals involving the use of recombinant DNA and/or other biohazardous agents, and every three years thereafter, starting February 2011. Training of affected PIs will be verified prior to receiving Biological Use Authorization from the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC). PIs are responsible for ensuring that staff has completed EH&S Biosafety Training.

This training requirement can be met by completing an online course, or by attending an in person class. Either option will require one and a half to two hours to complete.

Informational outreach sessions regarding this new requirement will be held across campus at the following times and locations. These are informational sessions only and not the actual EH&S Biosafety Training course.

  • Jan. 11 (Tues.): Health Sciences Bldg., Turner Auditorium, D209, 10:00 – 10:50 a.m.
  • Jan. 12 (Wed): Harborview R&T Bldg., Rms. 109/113, 3:00 – 3:50 p.m.
  • Jan. 21 (Fri): Electrical Engineering Building, EEB303, 3:00 – 3:50 p.m.
  • Jan. 24 (Mon): SLU Brotman Bldg. Auditorium, 10:00 – 10:50 a.m.
  • Jan. 26 (Wed): William H. Foege Auditorium, GNOMS060, 11:00 – 11:50 a.m.

Please contact the EH&S Research and Biological Safety Office at 206.221.7770 or rbso@uw.edu  with questions regarding this new training requirement.

   Noted British medical educator to give lecture January 20

Timothy DornanNoted medical education scholar Dr. Timothy Dornan will give a talk on “Conditions, processes, and outcomes of medical students’ workplace learning," from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 20, in room T-625, Health Sciences Building.

Dornan is professor of medical education at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, a UK National Teaching Fellow, and visiting professor at Peninsula Medical School. He will be visiting the University of Washington while a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia for a month. His interests include clinical workplace learning and the use of IT to support it, social learning theories, and qualitative research methodology.

Dornan studied medicine and history and the philosophy of science at Cambridge University. He received his medical degree and clinical research doctorate from Oxford University and spent a post-doctoral year in Seattle. After completing his clinical training at the University of Nottingham, he became a consultant internist and endocrinologist in Manchester.

Dornan helped design and implement the University of Manchester’s innovative integrated undergraduate medical curriculum and is a leader at the university’s medical education research group. He has trained as an educationalist and received a doctoral degree in clinical workplace learning in 2006 at Maastricht University.

Dornan’s publications include:

  • How can medical students learn in a self-directed way in the clinical environment? Design-based research;
  • How can experience in clinical and community settings contribute to early medical education? A BEME systematic review;
  • What can experience add to early medical education? Consensus survey; Osler, Flexner, apprenticeship and 'the new medical education'; and
  • An electronic learning portfolio for reflective continuing professional development.

The talk is co-sponsored by the Department of Medical Education and Biomedical Informatics and the School of Medicine Education in Medicine lecture series. For questions, call 206.221.3322.

   School of Medicine Service Excellence Award recipients announced

The Dean’s office of the School of Medicine recently announced the 2010 summer and fall recipients of the Service Excellence award. These individuals represent the values of excellent service and commitment to the School of Medicine’s mission through their demonstration of effective mentoring, inspiring leadership and high standards of exemplary service to others. The Service Excellence Committee values input and nominations. Please nominate someone who meets the criteria by e-mail at somstars@uw.edu  or online.

Summer 2010

Jillian Harrington, clinical data manager, Cardiothoracic Surgery, for strong leadership and for providing excellent service to faculty.

Diane Merz, director, Clinical Research Budget and Billing Support Service, for providing invaluable support to staff and faculty in the re-engineering of the billing process for clinical research.

Nancy Maizels, Ph.D., professor, Department of Immunology, for tireless work with the Molecular Medicine program and for  leadership and resourcefulness across departments.

Fall 2010

Florence Reyes, administrative coordinator, Department of Otolaryngology/HNS, Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center, for strong organizational skills and dedication to meeting the needs of her department and others.

Gabrielle Pett, assistant director, Graduate Medical Education, for excellent customer service skills, strong work ethic and  resourceful problem solving skills when dealing with complex matters.

Brant Oelschlager, M.D., professor of surgery, for his continuous strides to make systems work for the good of the patient and to further the mission of the School of Medicine.

Peter Tarczy-Hornoch, M.D., FACMI, professor and division head, Division of Biomedical and Health Informatics, Department of Medical Education and Biomedical Informatics, for his contributions to the IT infrastructure of the patient care and research enterprises.



WWAMI Regional News

    Idaho program fosters biomedical research and education

Sara HegglandThe Idaho IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Program is a consortium of ten research and educational institutions in Idaho that are collaborating to increase the state’s competitiveness for federal biomedical research funding.

Made possible through a $16.5 million grant award from the National Institutes of Health, the INBRE Program encourages the development and sharing of research resources to prepare the next generation of scientists by providing opportunities for every interested and capable Idaho student and faculty to pursue biomedical research or education. The University of Idaho administers the program.

A goal of the Idaho INBRE is to serve as a pipeline to graduate and professional education by providing, K-12 science activities and teacher training, undergraduate and post-doctoral fellowships, travel awards, interstate research and seed grants. This pipeline serves the WWAMI region by preparing undergraduates in Idaho’s colleges to pursue biomedical research by enrolling in such programs as those offered by the UW School of Medicine. (Pictured above Dr. Sara Heggland (standing), professor and chair of biology, mentors students at the College of Idaho. The College of Idaho has a track record in educating undergraduate students who go on to enroll in the UW School of Medicine.) 

The Idaho INBRE supports the scientific community with faculty development and mentoring, aids in new faculty recruitment, hosts seminars and visiting scholars, and provides training in grant writing, research plan development, and scientific manuscript preparation. Funded projects include research in infectious disease, cancer, bone development, toxicology, and metabolic regulation.

For more information about the Idaho INBRE Program contact, Carolyn Hovde Bohach, Ph.D. professor and director of the Idaho INBRE Programat CBOHACH@uidaho.edu  or visit the INBRE website.



Upcoming Events

The following is a listing of some upcoming events that may be of interest to the UW Medicine community. Additional events are listed on the UW Medicine events calendar.  

School of Medicine Faculty Development Workshop, Jan. 11

Using Interactive Technologies to Engage Your Learners, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, Jan. 11, UW South Campus Center, room 316R. This hands-on workshop will explore three technologies that medical educators can use to provide learning experiences that reduce the need for in-person interaction. Presenters are Mahesh Thapa, Dept. of Radiology, Seattle Children’s; Michael Campion and Jason Reep, Academic and Learning Technologies, Academic Affairs; and Jake Kulstad, UW Information Technology. Workshop is free and open to all UW School of Medicine and Health Sciences faculty members. Registration is required. Contact Rachael Hogan at 206.616.9875 or rhogan@u.washington.edu for more information.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute, Jan. 13

Understanding the past…to keep the dream alive! UW Medical Center and the Health Sciences Schools present their annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 13, in the UW Warren G. Magnuson Health Sciences Lobby. The program will include remarks by Phyllis Wise, interim UW President; keynote speaker Joy-Ann Williamson-Lott, UW associate professor of educational leadership; and policy studies, and Rob Jones, UW second-year medical student. The annual Distinguished Service Award and Community Volunteer Recognition Awards will also be presented. Contact Julie Collier at jcollier@u.washington.edu or 206.616.1933 for more information.

2011 Charles W. Bodemer Lecture, Jan. 18

Henrietta Lacks: Ethics at the Intersection of Health Care and Biomedical Science by Ruth R. Faden, the Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics and director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, 4 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 18, Turner Auditorium, D-209, Health Sciences Center. A reception will follow. Contact the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at bhinfo@u.washington.edu or 206.543.5145 for more information.  

Annual Address to the UW Medicine Community, Jan. 31

Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine, executive vice president for medical affairs, and dean of the UW School of Medicine, University of Washington, will give his annual address to the UW Medicine community at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 31, in Hogness Auditorium. A reception will follow the address in the Health Sciences Lobby. Contact Julie Monteith at jspiro@u.washington.edu or 206.543.7718 for more information.

UW Medicine Mini-Med School, Feb. 1 – March 15 

UW Medicine Mini-Med School is an exciting seven-week lecture series designed to teach the general public about medical education, research and clinical care at UW Medicine. The lectures are held on consecutive Tuesdays from Feb. 1 to March 15. Lectures take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in Hogness Auditorium, UW Health Sciences Bldg.  The first lecture Millennial Generation & Their Medical Technologies will explore how the Baby Boom and Millennial generations adapt to life, learning and technology. Visit the Mini-Med School website for more information about upcoming lectures. Seating is limited. Registration is required. Register  online or call 206.685.9420 by Friday, Jan. 28.

Continuing Medical Education

Visit Continuing Medical Education for more information on upcoming classes.  



In the News

Fall UW Medicine magazine is now available online

The fall 2010 issue of UW Medicine magazine, the biannual magazine for alumni and friends of the UW School of Medicine, is now online.

Media coverage of UW Medicine    

Online News Archives  

UW Medicine website