Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center biostatistician Dr. Elizabeth “Betz” Halloran was in Rome Wednesday to receive the Aspen Institute Italia Award for her research into the impact that Ebola treatment centers had in curbing the epidemic in Liberia.
They determined that the establishment of specialized treatment units throughout Liberia might have contributed to reducing — by half — the number of Ebola cases and related deaths in Liberia between September 2014 and the start of 2015. The introduction of safe burial practices also likely cut the number of cases and lives lost by another 50 percent, according to their computational modeling analysis.
Aspen Institute Italia is a private, independent, international, nonpartisan and nonprofit association that encourages a free exchange of opinions about knowledge, information, and values, according to the group’s website. The Institute said it established the award this year to “raise the profile of collaborative efforts between Italy and the United States in the field of scientific research in the natural sciences.” The organization awarded a gross cash prize of 40,000 euros (about $43,000) to be shared among the institutions.
Other winners included Halloran’s research collaborators Dr. Alessandro Vespignani (Northeastern University) and Dr. Ira Longini (University of Florida), who was a member of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Hutch from 2006 to 2011, working with Halloran during that span.
“It is wonderful that one of the first papers in our collaboration with Professor Alessandro Vespignani and his Italian colleagues would be honored in this way,” Halloran said in an email from Rome. She is a member of VIDD.
Co-authors Vespignani and Longini are both part of the NIH-supported MIDAS Center of Excellence Center for Inference and Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, or CIDID. Halloran is director of the center, which is based at the Hutch. (MIDAS stands for Models of Infectious Disease Agents.) CIDID provides national and international leadership in computational, statistical, and mathematical research, education and outreach, and public health policy related to infectious diseases and interventions.
“Our joint research on the spread of Ebola has now been extended to research on the spread of Zika in the Western Hemisphere,” Halloran said. “Our science will continue as usual, as it would have without the award, but the award brings us together in a stronger way.”
The 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa killed more than 10,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The researchers’ published findings “highlighted the importance of the different types of interventions employed by health authorities to combat the epidemic, such as the opening of dedicated health centers for patients with Ebola,” said the Aspen Institute Italia. “The results obtained could make a significant contribution to the formulation of intervention plans to stem future epidemics of Ebola, which could break out again in Africa, while limiting their impact in other parts of the world such as Italy or the United States.”
— Bill Briggs / Fred Hutch News Service
Fred Hutch is one of 10 South Lake Union-area nonprofits nominated for the 2016 SLU Nonprofit of the Year award, one of the Annual SLU Business & Community Awards sponsored by the SLU Chamber Commerce.
The winner, chosen by popular vote, will be announced at an awards event on Jan. 11.
Online voting runs through December, when the top three finalists in each category will be announced.
The Nonprofit of the Year Award and the five other SLU Business & Community Awards, established in 2008, “recognize individuals, organizations and companies that contribute in a meaningful way to the improvement and success of our community,” according to the SLU Chamber website.
Other organizations nominated for 2016 SLU Nonprofit of the Year include the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific, the Center for Wooden Boats and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s clinical care partner.
The 2015 awardee was Immanuel Community Services, which provides community-based social services to people struggling with poverty and addiction.
— Susan Keown / Fred Hutch News Service
Obliteride organizers recently posted final fundraising figures from the 2016 cycling event — $2.4 million was generated by a record number of participants.
Some 1,500 riders hailing from half of the U.S. and several nations gathered at Fred Hutch during the Aug. 14 weekend to take on courses ranging from 10 to 165 miles and to physically support Hutch science.
“We welcomed more cyclists than ever and, after four years of events, we’re excited to have raised more than $9 million for our cancer research here at the Hutch,” said Amy Lavin, Obliteride executive director. She has ridden each of those four years; this year she rode from Seattle to Tacoma on Saturday and the next day cycled the 10-mile loop around Lake Union.
Many of the riders are cancer survivors, including Harvey Kanter, treated nine years ago for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This year, Kanter, CEO of the online jewelry retailer Blue Nile, generated nearly $52,000 in donations. Paula Reynolds, immediate past chair of the Fred Hutch board of trustees, brought in $50,000.
Every dollar raised by the riders goes to the Hutch to help pay for continuing research into immunotherapy and other promising treatments for breast cancer, solid-tumor cancers and more.
“We want to again thank our sponsors. We could not do this without them,” Lavin added. Major sponsors are University Village, the Sloan Foundation, the Ellison Foundation and the Sinegal Family Foundation.
Registration opens in mid-January for next year’s Obliteride, which takes place from Aug. 11 to 13.
— Bill Briggs / Fred Hutch News Service
Bill Briggs is a former Fred Hutch News Service staff writer. Follow him at @writerdude. Previously, he was a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TODAY.com, covering breaking news, health and the military. Prior, he was a staff writer for The Denver Post, part of the newspaper's team that earned the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Columbine High School massacre. He has authored two books, including "The Third Miracle: an Ordinary Man, a medical Mystery, and a Trial of Faith."