Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, executive director of Magee-Womens Research Institute. Submitted photo.

The health of women can affect that of their families, intensifying the need to ensure good outcomes, yet statistics show only about 13 cents of every medical research dollar goes toward supporting women’s health.

Magee-Womens Research Institute intends to help change that by offering a $1 million prize to attract top visionaries to collaborate on the best idea to advance women’s health. The award, funded by The Richard King Mellon Foundation, will be given at the Institute’s inaugural 9-90™ Research Summit in October 2018, intended to establish Pittsburgh as a beacon for women’s health research.

It is the largest research prize across health disciplines, double that of the Wolf Prize or the Albany Medical Center Prize for medicine/biomedical research (each $500,000).

“This landmark prize and summit will have an impact not only on the local and regional Pittsburgh community, but also on the national and global community,” said Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, the Institute’s executive director. “We firmly believe in our ability to stimulate ‘science without borders.’”

Magee-Womens Research Institute is the nation’s largest research institute devoted exclusively to women’s health. CEO Michael Annichine says 300 to 500 of the world’s leading scientists in women’s health will come together to shape the national agenda on women’s health. The Magee Prize is meant to emphasize women’s health as the basis for human health, since “the earliest stages of human development contribute to many diseases that affect humankind,” he says.

Magee’s “9-90” research studies a person’s health from “the nine months we spend in utero, building the blueprint of our life,” says Annichine, “and understanding the effects those months have on the next 90 years of our wellness.”

The Magee Prize winners will be selected based on innovative and collaborative research in disciplines including early human development, reproductive sciences and gender-based biology. A team of researchers from anywhere in the world will collaborate with Magee researchers on the best project to improve women’s health around the globe.

Think of it as a Nobel Prize in women’s health research, says Carrie Coghill, the Institute’s board chair.

“We will reward research that will discover new information and translate that research from the bench to the bedside,” Coghill says, with a goal to “raise women’s health research to the prominence it deserves.”

Gender-specific research includes work on women’s cancers, pelvic floor health, fertility, metabolism, drugs and food supplements, aging and medical disorders that affect women distinctively.

Though researchers in this space are a close-knit community, Annichine says they’re hopeful of finding groundbreaking research that is underfunded and largely unknown. Even research that isn’t market-ready is worth investment years before it’s ready for commercialization, he says.

The summit will be a first-of-its-kind to cover more than one topic involving women’s health.

“This is a more inclusive conversation,” says Annichine. “It’s really about human health as it’s seen through women’s health. ‘Healthier women, healthier babies, healthier communities’ is kind of how we look at it.”

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.