Hutchison Whampoa Limited, a large conglomerate listed in Hong Kong, has committed up to US$4 million to establish a program dedicated to hepatitis research at Stanford University Medical Center. 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 Hutchison Group gift to Stanford 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 has also committed US$1 million over four years to support the work of Thomas A. Raffin, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Critical Care Medicine, co-director of Stanford’s Center for Biomedical Ethics, and co-chair of the Hepatitis Research Selection Committee.
Hutchison Whampoa, headed by the influential Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist, Li Ka-shing, is one of Hong Kong’s largest groups with more than 54,000 employees and major investments and operations in over 20 countries worldwide. The Group’s core businesses include telecommunications and media, property development and investment holdings, ports, infrastructure, energy and oil, and retail and manufacturing.
Mr. Li and the Hutchison Group have been strong supporters of projects which benefit education and medical care in Hong Kong, China, and overseas. Chairman Li Ka-shing said, “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.”
Eugene A. Bauer, M.D., vice president for Medical Affairs and dean of Stanford University 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 hepatitis patients worldwide. We are very grateful for Mr. Li’s vision in initiating this program.”
Translational medicine is the transformation of laboratory findings into new ways to diagnose and treat patients. It is a hallmark of university-based medical centers such as Stanford.
The Hutchison Group Program in Translational Medicine will provide funding for major research related to hepatitis. Teams of faculty including basic scientists, clinical investigators, and clinicians will be encouraged to submit competitive proposals for funding. Winning proposal(s) will be chosen by a 15-member selection committee based on the potential to produce an important medical breakthrough.
“The project(s) will be selected based on application of the most advanced molecular and genetic technologies and the potential to produce rapid results and benefit mankind,” said Dr. Raffin, who serves as co-chair of the selection committee.
The Hutchison Group Program in Translational Medicine will support research programs with the potential to improve the health of millions of people around the world: more than 300 million people worldwide 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 50 percent of all cancer cases. Currently, vaccines exits only for some forms of hepatitis, and most available treatments are not universally effective.