VentureWell grant opportunity Q&A session

Do you have an idea for an invention or startup company? Do you need help getting started? Well, a new resource has recently become available to the OHSU community.

VentureWell is a non-profit higher education network, cultivating science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship on university and college campuses,and moving them forward to commercialization. There are two available grant programs aimed at graduate students and faculty.Andrew Watson, PhD

Student grant program: VentureWell’s E-Team student grant program provides veteran coaching, experiential workshops, and early-stage grant funding of up to $75,000. (Deadline: Oct. 7, 2015)

Faculty grant program: The faculty program works to support student inventors by working to fund new, or modify existing, courses and programs in technology entrepreneurship, providing funding of up to $50,000. (Deadline: Nov. 4, 2015)

Andrew Watson, Ph.D., director of technology transfer, will be holding an informational Q&A session about the program to assist student and faculty entrepreneurs in moving new tech ideas out of the lab or classroom and into the marketplace.

Monday, Aug. 24, 2015
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Center for Health & Healing, 3178


Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015
4 to 5 p.m.
Mackenzie Hall 2201

Questions? Please contact Andrew Watson at

von Gersdorff team sheds light on how diabetes triggers blindness

Diabetic  neuron

These retinal neurons are the first neurons to be damaged by diabetes. On the right is a micro-electrode used to fill the neuron with a dye to show its shape and to measure the tiny signals from the neuron’s synapse

A new study published in Neuron,  led by Henrique von Gersdorff, Ph.D., is the first characterization of a group of specialized synapses in the retina, the part of the eye that captures and transmits visual signals. These specialized synapses are inhibitory synapses that reduce the activity (or normal ‘chatter’) between neurons connected by multiple excitatory synapses. von Gersdorff and his team–Veeramuthu Balakrishnan, Theresa Puthussery, Mean-Hwan Kim, and W. Rowland Taylor–from the Vollum and Casey Eye Institutes developed a new, exquisitely sensitive technique to directly record and measure the properties of these synapses.

In addition to providing critical new insight into the basic processes of synaptic development in the retina, this study provides a deeper understanding of the critical synapses that may be damaged in pre-diabetic patients. A major complication of late-stage diabetes is that people go blind because of extensive damage to the synapses of the retina. The findings in this study lay a foundation for the development of drug treatments to prevent such blindness–in other words, they may lead to exciting new avenues for treatments of diabetic retinopathy at an early stage of the disease, before it has caused major damage to the retina. With diabetes, the process of retina damage takes some time. If scientists can develop neuro-protective drugs that can be directly injected into the eyes early on before blood vessels are damaged, they may be able to prevent irreversible loss of vision.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that a Norwegian study discovered that inhibitory synapses were affected by diabetes. However, very little is known about them because they are small and inaccessible. The OHSU team was able to advance their electrophysiological techniques to capture the signals from these synapses.

von Gersdorff argues that whenever you study fundamental mechanisms, down the line, you find that they are essential for understanding and curing human diseases. The insights from basic research are invaluable for developing treatment strategies. He says that even apart from the clinical implications, this study of fundamental mechanisms is intrinsically important because it increases our knowledge of how the retina and the brain work.

The title is “Synaptic Vesicle Exocytosis at the Dendritic Lobules of an Inhibitory Interneuron in the Mammalian Retina”; Neuron: 87:563-75.  This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute (EY014043, EY024265, and EY014888).



Inaugural Director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs appointed

Kay Lund, Ph.D. will join NIH this August as the inaugural director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs. In this newly created role, Lund will oversee and guide NIH’s training and development programs aimed at establishing a highly qualified biomedical workforce.

Kay Lund, Ph.D.

Kay Lund, Ph.D.

Lund arrives at NIH from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she held the endowed Sarah Graham Kenan Professorship in Cell Biology and Physiology, with joint appointments as Professor in Pediatrics and Nutrition. As an investigator, her research led to the discovery of two new hormones now being used in clinical trials and she is the holder of two patents. Lund is also a notable leader in workforce development. Her dedication to training and mentorship has resulted in many awards and recognition from professional societies.

Lund will work closely with the NIH Director’s Biomedical Workforce Working Group and continue to implement their recommendations. Among past recommendations, NIH is currently implementing the expansion of NIH institute and center participation in F30 and F31 training fellowships, the BEST program, the increase in postdoctoral fellow stipends, and individual development plan expectations. A new training website is also now available to help connect trainees with career stage appropriate funding opportunities. Learn more about these initiatives and Kay Lund’s new role.

Research Administration: Effort/salary cap refresher classes, Aug. 18 and 19

It’s been six months, and another effort period has come to a close. Do you need a refresher for coordinating effort certification or applying the DHHS salary cap?

We would be delighted to help! The upcoming refresher includes a review. You are welcome to bring any specific questions or issues that need attention.

Effort certification/salary cap refresher

Tuesday, Aug. 18
2 to 4 p.m.
Center for Health & Healing, 3171 1A


Wednesday, Aug. 19
10 a.m. t0 12 p.m.
West Campus, ABC room

Topics covered:

  • Review of effort certification process and DHHS salary cap requirements
  • Strategies and tools to ensure accurate, complete, and timely effort statement submissions
  • Opportunity to work through current questions and issues for this effort period

For a more detailed description, see Research Administration Training and Education Effort.

To enroll in the effort and salary cap refresher, use your network credentials to login to Compass. For questions, contact Margaret Gardner.

TTBD innovator spotlight: Carmem Pfeifer, D.D.S., Ph.D.

CarmemPfeiferCarmem Pfeifer, D.D.S., Ph.D., assistant professor of biomaterials and biomechanics for the OHSU School of Dentistry, became an inventor without intending to.

“When you get removed from your everyday problems, sometimes you can have an idea completely out of the blue,” she said.

In 2009, with a suggestion from her postdoc supervisor, Pfeifer attended a UVA/UVB conference to showcase what they were doing in his lab to industries other than dental. During a session on sun protection for outdoor decks of all things, Pfeifer started contemplating alternative applications of the UVA/UVB coatings in the dental field. While the conference applied to the coatings industry, she said the chemistry is the same as what is used in dental materials. Both applications use photo-polymerization. So she asked herself, “How can I harness this technology and translate it into a biomedical application?”

Pfeifer set to work on designing a new dental resin composite that would improve upon current resin composites on the market by extending the lifetime and durability. Currently, dental restorations, also known as “fillings,” are made from silver amalgam or natural tooth-colored composite resin. Current dental restorations using resin composite last between five to 10 years due to fracture and degradation. The composites are technique sensitive; the quality relying heavily on the hand skills of the dentist and how careful they are in placing the material on the tooth. Pfeifer worked to overcome these inefficiencies, creating a new durable dental composite that is more forgiving, allowing greater resistance. As dental composites are made of two components (an inorganic filler and an organic composition), Pfeifer created an additive that combines into the organic composition, using materials that are more resistant to hydrolysis and crack propagation.

Since 2013, Pfeifer has worked with the OHSU office of Technology Transfer & Business Development to commercialize her invention. Her technology (OHSU ID #1962), “Durable Dental Composites” has been featured twice at OHSU’s MedTech Alliance, a platform for investors, industry representatives, and community partners to stay up to date on early-stage collaboration and investment opportunities at the university. Pfeifer also received a 2015 Bioscience Innovation Award, totaling $45,000, to further develop the technology. Her plan with this funding is to further develop the dental additive to scale up to one-kilogram batches, ultimately creating a working commercial composite prototype. She hopes an outside dental company will license this invention.

Prior to joining OHSU in 2011, Pfeifer served as a research assistant professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She earned her Ph.D. in dental materials and did her postdoc work in polymer chemistry applied to dental materials. She’s also an endodontist but hasn’t practiced dentistry since 2008.

When asked if she had any advice for future innovators hoping to commercialize their research, she replied, “Wow, I thought I was too young to be giving advice!” She went on to say, “Well, have an open mind because you never know. The story of this invention is that I went to a meeting that had nothing to do with dental applications. I was completely outside of my comfort zone. So have an open mind. I think this is when innovation starts.”

Who’s new at OHSU? Pamela Cassidy, Ph.D.

Pamela Cassidy, Ph.D., is a research associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at OHSU. Her research focus is on melanoma chemoprevention – developing agents that ameliorate the pathophysiological processes resulting from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Where were you before coming to OHSU?
I was at the University of Utah. I did my graduate and postdoc work there and then spent the last 15 years at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. So, in total, I was at Utah for 25 years!

birthday_fishWhat brought you to OHSU?
Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., and I worked together in Utah and she moved here to become the Chair of Dermatology. She ended up offering me a job, so I came for the opportunity to continue to work with Sancy and for the growth opportunity and resources OHSU presented.

How did you get involved in dermatology?
I’ve always been interested in antioxidants for prevention of cancer. The melanoma researchers in the Department of Dermatology at Utah were kind enough to share their expertise in animal models with me, so because of that relationship, I sort of fell into looking at melanoma as research focus.

I’m actually a chemist by training, so the biology of skin pigmentation is really fun for a chemist to think about. Looking at the chemical details of how pigment gets made and how UV light affects the skin is absolutely fascinating to me. As a basic scientist, I think about it in different ways than others might. Dermatology also presents wonderful clinical and translational opportunities to study cancer prevention and treatment because the tissue we’re interested is right there on the surface, making our work relatively non-invasive. We learn a lot about the basic science from our mouse models, , but we need to be able to figure out how to do the same research within humans. Dermatology provides opportunities to do this.

Read more…

NIH student loan repayment program for up to $35,000 annually

The NIH is accepting applications for its annual Extramural Loan Repayment Program. If you’re a health professional pursuing a career in biomedical, behavioral, social or clinical research, and plan to commit at least two years to research, you may be eligible for up to $35,000 per year. The program is divided into five subdivisions:

Applications accepted from Sept. 1 through Nov. 16, 2015, 8 p.m. EST.

Eligibility requirements for each program can vary, so be sure to read the full notices. For all Loan Repayment Programs, applicants must be U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents and have a doctoral degree from an accredited institution. Applicants must engage in research that averages at least 20 hours a week during each quarterly service period per contract quarter. Total qualifying educational debt must be equal to or exceeding 20 percent of applicants institutional base salary at the time of award.

Note that these grants are awarded to the individual and do not go through OHSU’s system. However, you must work with OHSU’s pre-award office to verify your affiliation with the university.

Annual Oregon Bioscience conference coming in September; submit abstracts by Aug. 14

Oregon Bioscience conferenceThe Oregon Bioscience Association‘s 2015 annual conference is just around the corner, and poster abstracts submissions are being accepted through Friday, Aug. 14.

The poster session is a great opportunity for academic researchers and start-up companies to share their research innovations and obtain valuable feedback from local industry leaders, biotech executives, investors, and other conference attendees. The poster session and other conference events also provide a valuable forum for networking, establishing new collaborations and partnerships, and for learning about exciting developments within the Northwest bioscience community.

The abstract submission deadline is Friday, Aug. 14.

Who should submit a poster abstract?
Abstracts for Posters from both academic researchers and bioscience companies in Oregon are encouraged. Students and postdocs who present posters at the conference will be granted free registration to Conference Day One. All posters will be eligible for outstanding poster awards within their respective category.

Please submit your abstract by Friday, Aug. 14. Poster space is limited. You will be notified if your poster was accepted for presentation.

About the conference
The Oregon Bioscience Association 2015 annual conference: Expanding the ecosystem
Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 9 and 10, 2015

Conference Day One held at the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, 2730 S.W. Moody Ave., in Portland
Conference Day Two held at Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Highway (Hwy. 43), south of Portland

Get the conference schedule here.
Register now.

Questions? Please contact Mike Matrone at or Sarah Biber at


Brendan Rauw named vice president of technology transfer and business development

Brendan Rauw photo_for RNBrendan Rauw, MBA, has joined OHSU as vice president, technology transfer and business development, a division of OHSU’s research mission that supports technology commercialization, industry collaboration, and entrepreneurship.

Rauw comes to OHSU from UCLA, where he served as associate vice chancellor and executive director of entrepreneurship. In this role at UCLA, he was responsible for leading a variety of programs designed to advance innovation, entrepreneurship, and the transfer of intellectual property into real-world applications. He also guided the establishment of a separate, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation – Westwood Technology Transfer – to oversee technology transfer and industry-sponsored research, and served as the founding CEO.

Rauw’s move to OHSU was a natural one. “It is an exciting time to be at OHSU. The Knight Cancer Challenge just shows that world-class research is going on here. I see a lot of opportunity that TTBD can help move forward for the benefit of patients and society.”

The city itself was also a factor in taking the job. “There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit in Portland. It’s a unique place for collaboration and expansion of ideas. Leading venture firms are becoming interested in the startups being generated in Portland today.”

Rauw added, “The success of TTBD and the greater Portland life science community are closely linked.”

That’s particularly helpful as he steps into this role, given he is responsible for forging a successful, dynamic program to advance OHSU’s goal of substantially increasing the commercialization of its intellectual property and increasing industry research collaborations.

Rauw is no stranger to taking risks. He has been a founder in four startup companies, and prior to UCLA, he helped establish the office of technology transfer and innovation at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, a private university with a $20 billion endowment. He was also a director on the senior leadership team of Columbia Technology Ventures in New York, responsible for Columbia University’s intellectual property investment and management.

Rauw came to university technology transfer after a career in strategy consulting and business development. He was a management consultant in the New York office of the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised major private equity and biopharmaceutical companies on topics such as corporate acquisitions, innovation strategy and R&D design, including two $40+ billion acquisitions. He also worked in corporate development with Genzyme Corporation.

He believes his diverse global experience will help OHSU advance the commercialization of the intellectual property being generated.

“I think the role of technology transfer and business development is to advance commercialization of research for the benefit of patients and society. If we do our job well, the dollars will follow.” He added, “In the end, our success rests on our relationships with faculty. They need to know what we offer and how we can help them, and we need to deliver on that promise.”

Rauw holds an undergraduate degree in biology from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. A native of Calgary, Canada, he has a wide range of interests and hobbies. He is an advanced SCUBA diver, with more than 20 years of experience diving all over the world. He is also a martial artist who became an instructor in high school. Since then, he has studied Shaolin kung fu in China, and Muay Thai kickboxing in Thailand. While working at UCLA, Rauw also completed culinary school at the New School of Cooking.

Rauw has big aspirations for TTBD and OHSU. “There are established biotech clusters in San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. I hope to help OHSU play a critical role in Portland becoming an emerging cluster.”

Save the date: 2015 TTBD awards, Oct. 19

The Technology Transfer & Business Development (TTBD) awards ceremony is an annual celebration that recognizes OHSU community members for their efforts in licensing, sponsored research, patenting, and entrepreneurship. Mark your calendars for the 2015 TTBD awards ceremony.

Save the date!
Daniel Dorsa & Arthur VandenbarkMonday, Oct. 19
5 to 8 p.m.
Collaborative Life Sciences Building

This event will include:

  • Awards and recognition for OHSU innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Reception with complimentary refreshments
  • Remarks from:
    • Daniel Dorsa, senior vice president for research
    • Jeanette Mladenovic, executive vice president and provost
    • Brendan Rauw, vice president of technology transfer and business development
    • Andrew Watson, director of technology transfer

More information and registration will be coming soon. For questions regarding this event, please contact Karen Boren at

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