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Bill and Melinda Gates. (Photo via Facebook / GatesFoundation)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the University of Washington a $279 million grant, distributed over the next 10 years, to help researchers study the health of populations around the world.

The grant is the largest private donation in the university’s history. The funds will support UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), furthering the work of the Population Health Initiative that launched in May.

“IHME has developed the capacity to measure the burden of more than 300 diseases in 130 countries by age, gender, and population, and it produces tremendous data and insights that help us prioritize our investments to ensure that we are maximizing the life-saving potential of every dollar,” said Dr. Trevor Mundel, President of the Global Health Division at the Gates Foundation, when asked about the size of the donation. “IHME relies on the expertise of more than 2,000 collaborators around the world, and this effort requires resources.”

University of Washington. (Flickr Photo / Sea-turtle)

The donation will help IHME continue its work using data and analysis to address the world’s most drastic health concerns, and it will fund new initiatives, as well. IHME plans to use the 10-year grant to track how healthcare resources are used around the world and identify more effective ways to plan and set health-related priorities in different communities.

“This level of support and the 10-year timeframe give IHME the stability we need to focus on advancing our research, infrastructure, and global reach,” said William Heisel, Director of Global Engagement at the IHME. “We would not have the same global reach and be able to achieve the same global scale of impact within our lifetimes without a grant of this magnitude.”

The Gates Foundation has been a big supporter of the IHME since it opened in 2007. In October, the non-profit juggernaut announced a $210 million donation to the UW’s Population Health Initiative, a 25-year effort to improve the health of populations around the globe by taking a broad approach to promoting wellness. Those funds will help UW build a public health hub, housing the IHME, Population Health Initiative, and portions of the School of Public Health.

With sustained support from the Gates Foundation, IHME has grown from three employees to 300 over the past nine years.

“IHME provides critical data about global health trends that can empower policymakers worldwide to identify better solutions in the fight against disease,” Bill Gates said in a press release.

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