The Erie Community Foundation announced a $6 million grant, the largest in its 84-year history, to bring Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) to Erie.

Plans also call for the creation of a new biomedical research lab at Penn State Behrend’s Knowledge Park.

The investment will bring locally-focused clinical research trials for women to the region, with a goal of improving the health of generations of women to come.

The grant to the Hamot Health Foundation in partnership with UPMC, Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation and Penn State Behrend will bring genomic studies and clinical trials to downtown Erie.  The initial location will be in Magee-Womens UPMC Hamot at 118 East Second Street. Construction will begin immediately on 3,500 square feet of space, with plans to expand as the research institute grows.

This marks the first expansion of Magee-Womens Research Institute outside Pittsburgh. Because Erie is home to multi-generations of families, leaders of the institute believe genomic studies and clinical trials can lead to improved and targeted cancer treatments for residents in this region. 

The grant opens a new sector in Erie’s economy, with an anticipated $15 million in federal research dollars flowing into the Erie community in the first five years, and $50 million by year ten, according to a news release from the partners.

In addition to the $6 million provided by the Erie Community foundation, the Hamot Health Foundation, UPMC, Magee-Womens Research Institute and Penn State have each committed $5 million to the project, for a total $26 million investment.

“We also expect to add 50 new jobs to Erie by year five, and 195 jobs by year ten, with an average salary of $70,000 per year,” said Hamot Health Foundation Chief Development Officer Charles “Boo” Hagerty.   

“Each of the project’s strong champions is committing multiple millions of dollars to make our region’s dreams become reality such as new jobs in our downtown, increased flow of federal research dollars, and improved women’s health,” said Erie Community Foundation President Michael Batchelor.

MWRI is the largest research institute in the United States devoted exclusively to health conditions affecting women and infants.  "Our researchers have a direct impact on women's lives every day, whether they are developing new therapies that could prevent the re-occurrence of ovarian cancer, or investigating pregnancy complications and their lifelong effects on health. We strongly believe healthier women create healthier communities. This is why we are so proud and excited to expand our groundbreaking research and cutting-edge clinical trials to Erie.”  

The foundation grant and additional funding from Penn State will establish an affiliated research lab at Penn State Behrend, where faculty members and other researchers can develop and commercialize diagnostic tests, surgical devices and start-up ventures that advance the local clinical trials. The college is developing new academic programs in biomedical engineering, biochemistry and bioinformatics to support MWRI Erie.

“This partnership has the potential to transform Erie, directly improving the health of generations of women who live here. It also will stimulate the region’s economy, creating a new hub for clinical medical research,” said Chancellor Ralph Ford.

This new initiative is also expected to improve the recruitment of top physicians to Erie, including Halina Zyczynski, M.D, a leading researcher and doctor at MWRI and UPMC Magee who has been treating patients in Erie for the past few years. Dr. Zyczynski will now serve as the medical director of Magee-Womens Specialty Services at UPMC Hamot.