Global Solutions


Christopher Elias

PATH, under the direction of president and CEO Christopher Elias, has harnessed modern science and engineering to develop practical, affordable solutions for health problems in the developing world, where each year millions of people die from preventable diseases.

Tailoring culturally appropriate, affordable and sustainable solutions requires a great deal of work and creativity. Recently, for example, PATH partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight a meningitis strain that has devastated millions of people in Africa. The partners searched for possible vaccine candidates and found a technology that the Food and Drug Administration had developed. Through the Meningitis Vaccine Project, PATH helped negotiate rights to the innovation for token royalties and licensed the technology to the Serum Institute of India so the organization could manufacture it at one-tenth the typical cost.

In December 2010, the first people in Africa received what is called MenAfriVac. Estimates are that millions will receive it within the next few years. As in this case, PATH’s activities often require solutions that tap the talents and scale of governments, private companies and international organizations, such as WHO. “We had nothing,” explained the leader of the PATH vaccine partnership, Marc LaForce, M.D. “Our challenge was to translate that nothingness into a product.”

PATH has advanced many other innovations, about 85 different technologies, in its 30 years working for global health. One of them is a sticker for vaccine vials that indicates when they may have been spoiled by heat. The company has used such innovative techniques as street theater and comic books to encourage discussion of taboo subjects such as AIDs in an effort to discourage behaviors that contribute to the spread of the disease. The organization has also developed simple, affordable birthing kits that are distributed through women’s cooperatives in Nepal, and has done a great deal of work on women’s condoms now widely used by prostitutes in South America.

The organization, headquartered in the South Lake Union neighborhood, has about 900 employees in offices in 30 cities in 21 countries.


Ken Stuart, President and founder, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute

Back in 1976, when research on infectious disease in the United States was rare and few used the term “global health,” Ken Stuart brought together the best and brightest to find cures for international killers. The first in South Lake Union’s global health hub, Seattle BioMed researchers recently began human clinical trials for a malaria vaccine and discovered a trigger for latent tuberculosis. Meanwhile, the institute’s training programs—including BioQuest for high schoolers—readies the next generation of global health scientists. 

Monty Montoya, President and CEO, SightLife

A global leader and partner in the effort to eliminate corneal blindness, SightLife is a nonprofit corneal transplant recovery and distribution organization. A recipient of the Washington Evergreen Award, SightLife creates turnkey eye bank systems, providing important access to donated corneas in many areas of the world. Organizer of the first international eye bank development meeting in Seattle, in 2009, with 26 different countries in attendance, SightLife is affiliated with the UW School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and other academic institutions around the world.


How Vacuum Systems Will Change the Landscape for Health Care Facilities

How Vacuum Systems Will Change the Landscape for Health Care Facilities


Sponsored by MacDonald-Miller

The Polyclinic Northgate wanted to do something that had never been done before — create a medical clinic that could be rearranged in a weekend, located in virtually any building, and most importantly, a place that would not cost a lot to change in the future. How could there be a flexible system with the constraints that sewer lines currently impose on existing facilities? The Polyclinic turned to its mechanical contractor, MacDonald-Miller, to come up with a solution.

We interviewed Steve Amann, project executive, to find out how vacuum plumbing systems will revolutionize the healthcare industry.  

What is the vacuum system solution?

Vacuum plumbing is a modular drainage system, which allows for immediate and future room reconfigurations. Rather than the standard protocol of requiring slab penetrations to accommodate gravity drainage, vacuum piping serving waste fixtures is installed in overhead spaces, delivering wastewater to a central vacuum center that exits the building at a single, convenient location. 

How will this flexible system change the healthcare industry?

The vacuum system is the first ever application of its kind in a medical clinic utilizing demountable, movable interior walls. Now medical clinic spaces can be remodeled at a fraction of the time and cost formerly required given standard plumbing and fixed walls. This efficiency provides new opportunities for business while maximizing revenue. Now, health care teams can drive project decisions, rather than decisions being made by the constraints of an existing space layout, or lack of plumbing infrastructure.

How will it change the landscape for healthcare facilities?

Medical clinics can now be located in nontraditional locations, such as standard office buildings with lower lease rates than designated-use medical office buildings.

What is the environment and financial impact?

The environmental impact of vacuum toilets is substantially less compared to standard low-flush toilets. With only half a gallon per flush, tenants realize big savings on their water and sewer costs. The system also prevents waste pipe leaks, which occur in gravity-driven systems and contribute to a deterioration of a building’s health over time.

With the ever-changing nature of the health care industry and mounting price pressure, the combination of demountable walls and vacuum plumbing creates flexibility and provides long-term economic benefits — two elements which are in high demand within this emerging industry. 

MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is a full-service, design-build, mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about MacDonald-Miller’s recent projects.