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Fred Hutchinson May Use Stimulus Funds to Bring Back Some Employees

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Officials from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have said that the more than $40 million in American Recover and Reinvestment Act funding the center recently won could enable it to bring back some of the staffers it laid off this past spring, though not permanently.

Back in April, the Seattle-based Hutchinson center announced it had eliminated 83 positions, comprising 3 percent of its total workforce. The center cited declines in its philanthropic giving and investment income, both key sources of its discretionary funds.

Earlier this week, the Hutch announced it had been awarded 60 grants totaling $40.4 million funded through the ARRA, the $787 billion economic stimulus measure enacted in February by President Obama.

"This may allow us to hire back some research administrators that were laid off, but since the funding is only temporary, the positions would have to be temporary," Randy Main, the center's vice president and CFO, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

In announcing the stimulus funding on Monday, the Hutch said the money will help it retain and create about 920 jobs, based on an estimate that for every $100,000 it receives in grant funding, 2.3 jobs are retained or created internally and in the community by its suppliers.

Asked how many of the 920 jobs will be, or are projected to be, direct jobs at the center, Main replied, "It is very difficult to determine at this point. It is a certainty that more than half of the jobs created would be outside the center."

Main said the funds would allow for reimbursement "for a few million" dollars in costs that would have otherwise gone reimbursed — but cannot make up for the declines in philanthropic and investment income that touched off the job cutbacks, since the ARRA grants only cover project costs and allocated overhead.

The philanthropic and investment income reductions help explain why the Hutchinson center finished its fiscal year ending June 30 with $372 million in expenses and only $356 million in revenues. For the current fiscal year, however, the center projects a $5 million surplus, based on $364 million in revenues and $359 million in expenses.

The largest of the Hutchinson's $40 million in ARRA-funded projects was the $4.8 million grant awarded to Amanda Paulovich, an associate member of the center's clinical research division. Paulovich will conduct a pilot study designed to assess the feasibility and scalability of a human proteome detection and measurement technology.

The cancer center also won $4 million for a project to develop the infrastructure that would support a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research in Cancer Genomics, or CANCERGEN. The public-private consortium will design and conduct prospective, controlled clinical trials of cancer genetic tests deemed to be promising, in collaboration with the University of Michigan-based Southwest Oncology Group, one of the largest National Cancer Institute-supported cancer clinical trials cooperative groups. The project will be led by Scott Ramsey, a member of the Hutchinson center's public health sciences division and a professor of medicine at University of Washington School of Medicine

Ramsey's project will be part of a $16 million set of four projects to be undertaken with Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Public Health. The four projects — to be funded through the ARRA via the National Institutes of Health's $1.1 billion Grand Opportunities grants program — are intended to establish Seattle as a national center for conducting advance comparative-effectiveness research in cancer.

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