OCTRI announces 2017 Catalyst Award recipients

The Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Institute (OCTRI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 Catalyst Award. This grant is designed to support novel, collaborative research initiatives at OHSU.

“This year’s Catalyst Award is responsive to the need for novel methodologies that can improve and accelerate translational research,” said David Ellison, M.D., professor of medicine (physiology and pharmacology), OHSU School of Medicine, and director of OCTRI. “We are delighted to support these innovative investigators and their projects.”  dorrel

Craig Dorrell, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, Oregon Stem Cell Center, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine
“Assessment of anti-cancer drugs against patient-specific pancreatic cancer organoid cultures”

jacobsPeter Jacobs, Ph.D., assistant professor, biomedical engineering, School of Medicine
“iPancreas: Internet based on-demand artificial pancreas app-generator to accelerate clinical trials research”

      Click here to read project abstracts.

OCTRI’s Catalyst program receives institutional support from the School of Medicine’s Research Roadmap initiative and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research. For more information about Catalyst and other pilot award programs, visit the OCTRI funding opportunities web page.

Visit OCTRI’s webpage for more information on resources and services.

TTBD Industry Spotlight: GE Healthcare and OHSU

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare

OHSU continues to collaborate with industry giants, pushing the boundaries of medicine and health care forward. In 2013, OHSU partnered with Intel to create computer architectures for sequencing cancer genomes and personalizing cancer care. In 2015, OHSU joined with Apple, Inc. to create a technology that detects the warning signs of melanoma through photographs taken with an iPhone. This year, OHSU and GE Healthcare are finalizing collaborations on numerous health care projects, including cardiovascular research, imaging, and big data.

One particular project that attracted GE Healthcare to OHSU was the development of a new technology to improve heart attack detection. Invented by Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, the Myocardial Contrast Echocardiography (MCE) technology has been used on over 5 million patients around the world and has since attracted many prospective industry partners to OHSU. For example, GE Healthcare has expressed interest in collaborative studies including, but not limited to, the investigation of ultrasounds as a health care tool in rural and underserved communities as well as the testing of magnetic resonance pulse sequences to enhance neurovascular studies. Inspired by the MCE technology, GE Healthcare’s pursuit of partnership with OHSU is just one example of how innovative discoveries continue to bring industry partners to OHSU’s doorstep.

During his keynote address at the 2016 OHSU Startup Symposium on March 31, John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, stressed the importance of partnerships between industry and academic institutions.

“We are very impressed by and excited about the history of this institution. There really is a deep history here of science and health care innovations,” said Flannery. “We see a lot of things that we can do with OHSU in life science, in molecular imaging, in cardiology, in data and analytics. We would like very much to be a partner in the future of the business.”

Executives from both OHSU and GE Healthcare have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on health care projects, with plans to finalize the terms of this agreement by July 2016. This memorandum will include a collaboration agreement for OHSU’s commercialization efforts and will give GE Healthcare the opportunity to provide mentorship and support to OHSU through the MedTech Alliance, Biomedical Innovation Program, and Startup Symposium.

“We hope to spin out more startup companies and create even more excitement among our faculty to find innovative solutions to address a number of medical challenges,” said Abhijit Banerjee, Ph.D., OHSU’s director of business development.

As OHSU continues to create ties with industry partners, an environment of open shared knowledge and expertise grows. This enables an accelerated rate of innovation in medical technology and overall improvements in patient care. The partnership between OHSU and GE Healthcare demonstrates collaborative effort toward a common goal: Improving health care for the global community.

OHSU researcher’s discovery paves way for improved treatments for hearing-impaired

A team led by Lina A.J. Reiss, Ph.D., assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine’s Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery Department, has discovered that as many as half of individuals wearing bilateral hearing devices experience abnormal processing of sounds that worsens their auditory perception, particularly speech recognition.

Much progress has been made in the treatment of hearing loss with the development of hearing aids (HA) and more recently, cochlear implants (CI). In particular, combining acoustic and electric hearing from a HA and CI in opposite ears has led to improved speech perception in a noisy environment over CI alone. And yet, over the last half century, scientist and clinicians have observed that some patients have better outcomes wearing a single device. Until now, the reasons for this have remained unknown.

Reiss and her colleagues published the results of their study that shed light on this phenomenon in the May 24 edition of the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. “Two ears are not always better than one: Mandatory vowel fusion across spectrally mismatched ears in hearing-impaired listeners,” describes the changes in central auditory processing that occurs in some patients with bilateral hearing aids or cochlear implants. Subjects were asked to identify vowel sounds under various conditions using their personal HAs and/or CIs. Pitch-matching and fusion tests were also conducted using headphones and/or direct stimulation. What the team discovered was abnormal processing of sound in the brain that results in a reduced ability to recognize speech, particularly when background noise is present.

People with normal hearing fuse similar sounds between the ears. In the hearing-impaired auditory system, however, the two ears are often mismatched in pitch, leading to discordant information between ears. As such, the researchers found, many hearing-impaired listeners fuse sounds that are both similar and different between ears, such as a low-frequency sound – a man’s voice, for example – in one ear with a high-frequency sound – like a woman’s voice – in the other ear. For some patients, this fusion only distorts a few speech sounds.  However, for other individuals, fusion distorts the majority of speech sounds, and listening with two ears is so difficult they choose not to use a second hearing device.

This is the first study to investigate a potential underlying cause of binaural interference in hearing-impaired listeners at the phoneme (distinct units of sound) level. Because testing was done on single-vowel identification, further research is needed to fully understand how these interference effects arise and to extend the findings to consonant classification as well as to more complex listening situations such as those involving multiple talkers. Once the underlying mechanisms of interference are fully understood, new auditory training or device reprogramming approaches can be used to reduce these effects and maximize speech perception with two ears.

Lina A.J. Reiss, Ph.D. was first author on this paper. Her coauthors are Jessica L. Eggleston, Au.D., C.C.C.-A, Emily P. Walker (former student in the Reiss lab), and Yonghee Oh, Ph.D. (post-doctoral researcher in the Reiss lab).

This research was supported by grants R01 DC013307, P30 DC010755, and P30 DC005983 from the National Institutes of Deafness and Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health. 

2016 OHSU Startup Symposium draws regional attention to life science innovation

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, keynote speech

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, keynote speech

“You are never too old or too big to think like a startup.” Thinking like a startup can mean different things to different people, though most would agree that successful startups are idealistic, persistent, and have a goal in mind that they relentlessly strive to achieve. However, as time passes and companies grow, they can lose that startup mentality. This advice was one of many compelling points made by John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, during his keynote address at the fourth annual OHSU Startup Symposium. The theme for the symposium addressed the successes and limitations of Connecting the Pacific Northwest Life Science Ecosystem, discussing possible strategies and collaborations that may attract additional investors and resources to the region.

Over 300 symposium attendees visited the OHSU campus and the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on March 30 and 31. Visitors included regional investors, community partners, and startup company executives, along with OHSU faculty and staff members. In partnership with the OHSU Department of Surgery, the two-day event kicked off with an evening fireside chat featuring life science investors followed by Startup 101 workshops for OHSU clinicians. The second day included the popular “reverse pitch” series, where a panel of industry collaborators and investors engaged the audience in a candid discussion of what they look for when evaluating new companies and innovations. Other noteworthy sessions included investment strategies, understanding your customer, market research, and Pacific Northwest resources for early-stage life science companies.

The symposium also hosted the inaugural company showcase and poster session competitions in partnership with the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator. OHSU startup opportunity to pitch a 5-to-10 minute presentation to an audience that included elite investor and industry partners as well as a panel of . The presenters were evaluated based on the company’s stage of development, market & commercial opportunity, scientific merit/disruptive technology, business & commercialization plan, funding received, probability to follow-on funding, and the overall quality of the presentation. The winners of each competition walked away with a $1,000 check for their company. UrologyDx, Inc., a San Francisco-based genomics company, developing enhanced methods for monitoring an individual’s genome through their urine (their trademarked slogan is “Just Pee in a Cup!”), took home the prize for the company showcase. Yecuris, Inc., a Tualatin-based biotechnology company focused on the utilization of humanized model systems for preclinical drug development and human disease modeling, took the top spot in the poster session.

The event came to a close with a robust networking session that introduced OHSU faculty, staff, students, and post-docs to industry representatives from companies such as GE Healthcare, Welch Allyn, Takeda Ventures, Pfizer, Intel, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Cambia Health, and many others, giving OHSU the opportunity to showcase its talent and innovative environment to potential community partners and investors.

The office of Technology Transfer and Business Development (TTBD) hosts the OHSU Startup Symposium annually. The next symposium is scheduled for fall 2017.

Who’s new at OHSU? Alexey Danilov, M.D., Ph.D.

Alexey Danilov, M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of medicine (hematology and oncology), OHSU School of Medicine, and member of the Knight Cancer Institute. He focuses on treating and diagnosing patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and various lymphomas. He has been at OHSU for a year, arriving in October 2014.

Alexey Danilov MD PhD

Alexey Danilov, M.D., Ph.D.

Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Russia, but I did most of my training in the New England area of the U.S. I arrived in 2001 and completed my residency in medicine at Brown University and then followed that on with a fellowship at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. I then moved to Dartmouth as my wife was finishing her studies there, so I ended up as a senior fellow in Murray Korc’s lab working on pancreatic cancer. A year after I arrived, Dr. Korc left. Luckily, I received some support to work independently. This presented an opportunity to do what I wanted to do. I continued with my clinical and research interest in B-cell malignancies, and, with support of my clinical colleagues, I set up my own independent translational program in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

What brought you to OHSU?
I moved here for a variety of reasons. Some were personal – my wife is a pathologist and was able to find a position at the VA. But more importantly, I found a many like-minded people here, people who want to bring novel therapies into the clinic. As a physician-scientist, I am eager to bring novel therapies into clinical world. So, I constantly operate at the interface between the lab bench and the clinic, meaning that I work with drugs in the pre-clinical setting and usher them into early-stage clinical development. OHSU is one of the institutions that is good at this kind of work. This is a very complicated setting, requiring depth of both basic and translational science, and OHSU has it figured out. Therefore, this was just the right place for me.

What got you interested in this particular line of research?
I was drawn to hematology oncology because of the high translational relevance of the work. It’s important to me that I work with primary human samples, so that my work is immediately relevant to the clinic. In CLL and some lymphomas, there is access to biologic material which can be used in translational studies. This is very different than studying solid tumors where access to diseased tissue may be very limited. Not only do lymphomas interest me clinically, the ability to work with lymphoma samples provides immediate relevance to my work in the lab. Another unique feature of working with blood cancers is the ability to make diagnosis on the slides. While I’m not a pathologist, I have the benefit of seeing the actual patient and that very tangible visual connection with the patient’s disease.

My specific focus in studying lymphoma is to target the leukemia cell interaction within the cell’s micro-environment. At the time I entered the field, there were a couple of new agents that targeted certain pathways, mostly the B-cell receptor signaling pathway. However, our team discovered that in addition to this pathway, there are a multitude of extraneous signals which support the life of a malignant B-cell in its niche – its niche being the lymph node of the bone marrow, not necessarily in the blood. So we have modeled the lymph node micro-environment in vitro and screened for different survival strategies of the neoplastic B-cell to identify what can be targeted in these micro-environmental conditions. Of particular interest to my team was targeting the NF-kB transcription factor, which is one of the key transcription factors induced by multiple soluble factors in the micro-environment. NF-kB works independent of B-cell signaling, the pathway of which is the primary target of current approved drugs.

What specific area of research are you working on now?
We’ve identified the new strategies outside the B-cell signaling pathways – which I describe above – and our data suggest that not only can the new strategies work by themselves, but they can work as strong sensitizers to the drugs that are already available. So we’re looking into the details of how the NF-kB pathway can be targeted. There are multiple complexities in terms of how the NF-kB pathway is induced. In addition, there are several branches within the pathway, so we’re trying to figure out which are important and which aren’t. We have a number of clinical trials underway for patients with CLL and lymphoma, some of which I based on the pre-clinical work performed by my team. The trials provide good options for folks who have just been diagnosed or those who have progressed through different treatments that haven’t been completely successful.

What do you do when you’re not at work?
Let me start by saying that I’ve lived in many places: Central Russia, throughout New England, and I’ve never been as happy as I am living in Portland. There is just so much to do – too many distractions actually. It’s almost too much for one place! We love the hiking, skiing, food, theater, biking, great music scene. This is also a great area for kids – from OMSI and Playdate PDX to kid-friendly hikes – almost too much of a good thing.

Federal overtime changes will affect universities

This week, the White House announced new federal regulations concerning pay for most classes of workers who make up to $47,476 per year. Specifically, it increases the salary threshold for overtime pay–if you are salaried and make up to $913 per week, you need to receive overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours per week. National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins and Thomas Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, co-authored an article stating explicitly that this applies to postdoctoral fellows, and Mike Lauer, deputy director of extramural affairs at NIH, weighed in as well.  Businesses have six months, until December 1, to comply with the new rules, and it looks as though universities will need that much time to figure out what to do. The new rules pose challenges for many areas of academia: for example, they don’t apply to adjunct instructors (thus potentially creating even more inequity in the system), though they do apply to admissions officers, athletic trainers, and so on.

The Department of Labor gives a number of options for compliance besides paying overtime: for example, salaries could be raised to surpass the threshold, comp time could be offered, or base pay could be reduced. But researchers paid off grants have more to consider: the NIH modular budget has been the same since 2000 (when the Year 0 postdoc salary was about $27,000), and new requirements for reproducibility of research and scientific rigor may put additional pressure on already tight grant budgets.

We will update you with more information as this story unfolds.


Are you eligible? OHSU Export Controls duty waiver program

Are you purchasing research or education equipment from an international company? Your purchase may be eligible for a waiver of the duties normally assessed. OHSU research and education departments making large equipment purchases from overseas suppliers may have an opportunity to save 3.5 percent to 7 percent of the cost. Equipment must be manufactured outside the U.S. and with no U.S. equivalent available, and it must be used primarily for research or educational purposes. Recent equipment purchases realized a savings of between $6,000 and $12,000 each.

Please contact Jen McCaw, export controls officer, with a copy of your quote or purchase order or for more information.

Philip Copenhaver, Ph.D., receives 2016 women’s health Circle of Giving grant

Philip CopenhaverThe OHSU Center for Women’s Health Circle of Giving, a group of philanthropic women who pool and target their resources to advance women’s health research at OHSU, selected Philip Copenhaver, Ph.D., from the department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology to receive their annual grant. The grant will support Dr. Copenhaver and his collaborators to investigate the potential of STX, a novel selective estrogen receptor modulator, to have long-term protective effects on neurons in the brain. Ultimately, his research will be used to see whether STX can be used as an alternative to estrogen use in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Circle of Giving grant is focused exclusively on OHSU researchers who wish to launch new ideas and innovations in a broad range of women’s health issues. The next grant cycle will begin in December 2016. Please contact Casey Conrad for more information about submission requirements.

Reminder: MRF award nominations due May 27

MRF_Luminate_600x320In addition to their quarterly grant program, once a year the Medical Research Foundation (MRF) recognizes Oregonians who are performing cutting edge research and demonstrating outstanding leadership. So if you have an exceptional colleague you feel deserves recognition for their work, nominate them for one of these awards by May 27, 2016. Note: nominations are usually due in August so this is a new deadline!

Detailed information about each award including the Mentor Award, Discovery Award, and Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award can be found here.

Questions? Contact Nicole Good at 503-552-0677 or goodn@ohsu.edu.

“NIA 101” webinar scheduled for June 14

National-Institute-on-AgingDo you have a research idea related to aging but don’t know how to get your project funded? Dr. Chyren Hunter, deputy director of the Division of Extramural Activities and training officer with the National Institute on Aging may have the answer for you.

On June 14, 2016, Dr. Hunter will host “NIA 101,” a free hour-long webinar.  She’ll explain each step of the NIA grant application and review process and respond to questions from the audience. The aim is for investigators to have all the information they need to apply for NIA funding. Participants will get a copy of the presentation, a transcript of the questions and answers and a link to the archived recorded session.

Register for the webinar online. Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive an e-mail telling you how to join the webinar and other information.

“NIA 101” is the latest in a series of webinars sponsored by NIA’s Office of Special Populations and the Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization (ESPO) of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). The collaboration is part of an effort to enable researchers to access NIA funding and training programs, and to help students, postdocs and junior researchers become involved in the gerontology field.

Access past webinars and let NIA know what you’re interested in learning about as they plan their next webinar, here.

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