SEATTLE – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving the University of Washington $210 million to help build a new facility to advance efforts to improve the health and well-being of people worldwide, officials said Tuesday.
The donation from the largest private foundation in the world, located just miles from the Seattle campus, is the biggest single gift in the university’s history.
The new building will serve as a research hub for faculty and others working on an ambitious new population health initiative to address challenges such as poverty, health care access, equity and climate change. The total facility cost is $230 million.
“This is really much more than about a building,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in an interview last week. “The building is really about catalyzing a vision – an initiative that we launched last spring to really be first in the world in terms of population health.”
The initiative pulls together research and resources from across campus and disciplines to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
The efforts recognize that the health of a person or community is more than about the lack of disease; it encompasses everything from education, the environment, politics and quality of life including performance arts, Cauce added.
The university has an opportunity as well as an obligation to find solutions to those pressing challenges, and a new building would allow researchers, students and other partners to come together to work on them, Cauce said.
“We’re in a very privileged position and I think we have the obligation to take this on,” she said. “What happens around the world matters to us and vice versa.”
Seattle in particular is well-poised to tackle the issues of global health because of the research happening on campus and in the surrounding community, she said.
The region, known for its biomedical research, is home to dozens of organizations that work on global and population health and it is also the headquarters for Gates Foundation.
The new building, expected to open in fall 2020, would include space for the UW’s School of Public Health, the global health department and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, now located off-campus.
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