Spokane Journal of Business

HSSA deserves reauthorization through state Legislature


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Created by Washington state, the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County was authorized countywide by Spokane County in 2008 and began operating in 2009 with a mission to provide grant funding for bioscience research to promote economic development and support public health.

It’s funded through 0.02 percent of county-wide deferred sales tax, and the funding expires at the end of 2022.

We strongly support Senate legislative bill 5569, sponsored by Sens. Jeff Holy and Andy Billig, to extend HSSA’s authority another 15 years.

HSSA is credited with helping to bring more than $35 million in federal grant funding to the region.

Every $1 of National Institute of Health federal funding accounts for another $1 in the economy, creating $70 million in economic activity.

HSSA has spent $5.7 million for research and infrastructure grants, and $2.6 million in Access to Care grants for a total direct investment to date of $8 million. Yet these grant investments have created well over $100 million to the local and state economy and created about 500 jobs.

We’re only now beginning to see where this may lead. We now have two medical schools, a college of pharmacy and two college nursing programs, along with private and public researchers, and new companies that will benefit in the future with continued HSSA investments.

Five researchers were recruited to WSU’s College of Pharmacy with HSSA start-up funds, and they have hired laboratory staff and other researchers to support their work in pharmacogenetics, tobacco research, stem cell gene therapy, nanoparticle drug delivery systems, cancer research, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and many other areas. HSSA also helped fund WSU’s core laboratories, which are necessary to maintain and recruit researchers, plus they’re available for public and private researchers.

We have helped Iasis Molecular Sciences in its discovery of new treatments for infectious disease, and the company is at a point that it could grow significantly with further investment. Our funding also has helped recruit Photon Biosciences to Spokane, where it plans to continue its research and product development of nonbleaching luminescent probes in diagnostics.

In recent news, HSSA contributed $250,000 to help establish the Steve Gleason Institute of Neuroscience at WSU Spokane.

HSSA has supported worthy organizations in their efforts to provide care through its Access to Care annual grant program. Both Project Access and its successor Volunteers of America received support for homeless “hot spotters” who were using area emergency departments for primary care. Spokane Prescription Assistance Network provides prescribed medication for free to those who cannot afford their meds. 

There is much more to do, and it’s our desire that the Legislature will support another iteration of HSSA investments, especially given our proven track record.

Nancy Isserlis is the chairwoman of board of the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County, and Mike Wilson is a board member.

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