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Imlay Foundation’s $5 million grant to boost research at CHOA, Georgia Tech

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Sept. 23, 2016

The Imlay Foundation is making a $5 million grant – the largest in its 25-year history – to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Tech to help fund the development of pediatric therapies.

The grant also symbolizes the coming together of the two loves of Mary Ellen Imlay and her late husband, John Imlay, an Atlanta technology entrepreneur and philanthropist.

“The whole board of the Imlay Foundation was most enthusiastic about this,” said Mrs. Imlay, chair and president of the foundation. “It honors John’s love of Georgia Tech and my love of Children’s, and puts them together in an innovative way.”

Imlay CHOA Georgia Tech

(Left to right): M.G. Finn, chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry in Georgia Tech’s College of Sciences, Mary Ellen Imlay, chair of the Imlay Foundation, and Patrick Frias, M.D. , chief operating officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. They are standing at the Pediatric Technology Center at Georgia Tech. (Special)

The gift will help advance the research capabilities of Children’s Healthcare, one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the country. The partnership is called the Pediatric Technology Center, which will be housed at Georgia Tech.

It is bringing together clinicians from Children’s, academic scientists from Emory University and engineers from Georgia Tech to solve problems in pediatrics and develop technology solutions geared toward improving the health of children.

Mrs. Imlay is a long-time board member of Children’s, and she remembered being on a bus tour of Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital with her husband about five years ago when she heard about a new research program between CHOA and Georgia Tech.

“These are the two institutions we loved most,” she said. “The foundation grew a lot when John passed away, and we really wanted to do something (to honor him). For the past six months, we’ve been meeting with Georgia Tech and Children’s, and the Innovation Fund had John’s name written all over it.”

John Imlay – working with Sig Moseley – was an angel investor to a host of technology ventures. In keeping with that spirit, the Imlay gift will serve as an endowment for the Innovation Fund.

“Nowhere else in the country is there the opportunity to do what we are doing,” said Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s. “What this innovation fund will do is provide opportunities to really support technology for children. There will be a team across all four of our organizations to prioritize ideas.”

Mary Ellen Imlay Rob Smulian

Mary Ellen Imlay and Rob Smulian of the Imlay Foundation (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Hyland said most medical devices are designed for adults and then modified for children. The partnership between Children’s and Georgia Tech will work with pediatric doctors to “think small” and develop devices for children.

Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said the grant will enable Georgia Tech to accelerate solutions to high priority problems identified by clinicians.

“Through close collaboration, Georgia Tech researchers and Children’s clinicians are making Atlanta a true thought leader in advancing technologies for pediatric healthcare in leading-edge research areas from nanomedicine and regenerative medicine to innovative approaches for health care delivery,” Peterson wrote in an email.

Specifically the Imlay grant will go two programs – Quick Wins and Innovation Investment – both meant to translate research into practice as quickly as possible. It will support innovation a different stages of development.

“This is a unique relationship that many cities don’t have – research with an engineering approach,” Mrs. Imlay said. “It’s more project oriented. It’s just a great partnership.”

Mrs. Imlay then recalled that after the Imlay Foundation board had unanimously approved the gift in mid-September, she turned to her fellow board member – Sig Moseley, and said, “John would really be proud of us.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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