Madrona Awards 2018 Madrona Prize to UW Project That Applies Machine Learning to Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

SEATTLE--()--Madrona Venture Group awarded the 13th Annual Madrona Prize last night to the EMBARKER team at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. EMBARKER applies machine learning to the challenge of identifying disease markers. Working with a large dataset of Alzheimer’s patients’ brain tissue, EMBARKER identified both markers for the disease and possible pharmacological treatment. EMBARKER is an example of the increasingly important relationship between computer science, data science and life sciences that flourishes in the Seattle region.

The team was led by PhD graduate Safiye Celik, advised by Su-In Lee. Other researchers on the project include Josh C. Russell, Cezar R. Pestana, Ting-I Lee, Shubhabrata Mukherjee, Paul K. Crane, C. Dirk Keene, Jennifer F. Bobb, Matt Kaeberlein.

The Madrona Prize is awarded at the end of the Allen School’s annual Industry Affiliates Research Day. The day culminates in an open house and poster session that showcases the latest research projects and papers being pursued by faculty and students at the school. The Madrona Prize goes to the research project with the most commercial potential. Since Madrona’s inception, more than two decades ago, Madrona has funded 17 companies out of the Allen School. These companies include Impinj (NAS:PI), SkyTap and Turi (acquired by Apple).

“The UW Allen School is a crucial birthplace for much of the technology ecosystem in our region and the winner this year represents an important theme we are seeing more and more in the business world – great things happen when smart people combine computer science with bio sciences. This combination has the ability to change medical care for the better and help us live meaningfully better and healthier lives,” said Tim Porter managing director, Madrona Venture Group. “The UW has continued to innovate and expand their horizons adding valued researchers who bring their students and labs to our area to enrich the region with their uncommon thinking and innovations.”

“Our Affiliates Research Day is one of the highlights of the year for faculty and students. It is great to have the major tech companies visit, invest time in learning about the latest innovations emerging from our labs, and engage with our students,” said Hank Levy, Director of the Allen School. “Today illustrates how we embody the belief that Paul Allen had in the future of this region and the role that the UW can play in building it. We look forward to continuing to live up to his vision.”

Each year, the Madrona committee also awards runner-up prizes. This year the runners up were:

Runners Up

Puddle: A System for High-Level Microfluidic Programming
Max Willsey, Ashley Stephenson, Chris Takahashi, Pranav Vaid, Bichlien Nguyen, Michal Piszczek, Christine Betts, Sharon Newman, Sarang Joshi

Advisors: Karin Strauss and Luis Ceze

Slim: OS Kernel Support for a Low-Overhead Container Overlay Network
Danyang Zhuo, Kaiyuan Zhang, Yibo Zhu, Hongqiang Harry Liu, Matthew Rockett

Advisors: Arvind Krishnamurthy and Tom Anderson

Implantable Wireless Brain-Computer Interface
Jared Nakahara, Vaishnavi Ranganathan, Soshi Samejima, Nicholas Tolley, and Chet Moritz. See this for background on this poster.

Advisor: Joshua Smith

For past winners visit

About Madrona Venture Group

Madrona ( has been investing in early-stage technology companies in the Pacific Northwest since 1995 and has been privileged to play a role in some of the region's most successful technology ventures. The firm invests predominately in seed and Series A rounds across the information technology spectrum, including consumer Internet, commercial software and services, digital media and advertising, networking and cloud computing, and mobile. Madrona manages approximately $1.6 billion and was an early investor in companies such as, Apptio,, and Redfin.


Madrona Venture Group
Erika Shaffer, 206-972-5514

Release Summary

The 2018 Madrona Prize was awarded to faculty and students of the University of Washington applying machine learning to Alzheimer's Disease


Madrona Venture Group
Erika Shaffer, 206-972-5514