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$210M Gates gift will provide a home for UW's big health initiative

The University of Washington has received its largest donation ever: $210 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The gift will pay for a new building for an ambitious UW project -- the Population Health Initiative.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce announced the initiative earlier this year, and she admits the goal sounds audacious.

"We really, basically want to improve the health of the world," Cauce told KUOW.

Over the next 25 years, faculty, researchers and students will study world health threats like poverty, climate change and the Zika virus.

Then they'll look for solutions for whole communities, like getting access to healthier foods.

But Cauce says the effort needs a new building.

The Gates Foundation donation will cover most of the $230 million cost.

Cauce says she’ll ask the state Legislature for the rest.

She says work in the new building will benefit communities worldwide -- and right here in Washington.

"Think about some of the work that we're doing on climate change right now, you know cleaning up Puget Sound, etc.,” she said. “Some of the work to help children in schools in south King County that are largely low income. That's population health."

Cauce says the new building is expected to open by 2020.