OHSU startup presents at largest U.S. biotech conference

Dave FarrellGamma Therapeutics, Inc., an early stage OHSU biotech startup company, was selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as one of 50 companies to exhibit and showcase their technology in the world’s largest biotech conference. Held June 6-9 in San Francisco, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) International Convention attracted nearly 15,000 biotech leaders from over 65 countries. The event covered the wide spectrum of life science innovations and application areas, including drug discovery, bio manufacturing, genomics, biofuels, nanotechnology, and cell therapy. Gamma Therapeutics Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, David Farrell, Ph.D., F.A.H.A., represented the company as one of the few Oregon-based companies at the BIO Convention.

BIO recognized Gamma Therapeutics for the company’s recent NSF STTR Phase I award. Gamma’s products, which are based on OHSU technologies, are in the cardiovascular disease risk assessment, surgical therapy and combat casualty care spaces. The NSF STTR grant was awarded to develop a physiological initiator protein to enable rapid blood clotting to treat bleeding after a traumatic injury. Other products in Gamma Therapeutics’ product line include its flagship product, GammaCoeur ™, a cardiovascular disease risk diagnostic assay; GammaSeal™, a patented, high-strength post-surgical incision sealant; and Gammarin™, a patented non-immunogenic blood anti-coagulant.

Farrell hopes to bring more recognition and partners to the State of Oregon. “This was a great opportunity to bring international attention to the high quality of new inventions and discoveries coming out of Oregon, which could attract strategic industry partners and venture investment to Oregon.”

Resources for research with nonhuman primates

Have you ever thought about or are you planning to engage in primate research? The National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs) serve as a unique and valuable national resource to scientists who currently use or are considering using nonhuman primate models in biomedical research. If you have questions about nonhuman primate animal models of human disease or want to learn how the NPRCs can support your research, visit NPRCresearch.org. The contact page includes direct links to all seven NPRC websites as well as information for local contacts at each center including the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Recent updates to NRPCresearch.org include:

  • Hot Topics written by the NPRC directors and core scientists regarding the latest nonhuman primate research on developmental and acquired diseases, including Zika virus, HIV, and autism spectrum disorder
  • Searchable listings of NPRC-related publications, 324 of which have been released in the last six months
  • New information about Pilot Research Program funding available at the NPRCs
  • And more…

Explore the many ways the NPRCs can help you achieve your research goals at NPRCresearch.org.

OHSU investigators uncover factors driving “low-value care”

Waste accounts for roughly 20 percent of spending in the U.S. health care system. A significant portion of that waste is attributed to low-value care – unnecessary tests and treatments that are not only costly but provide little clinical benefit or may even harm patients. However, little was known about the patterns and drivers of this type of care. In a first-of-its kind study, researchers from OHSU’s Center for Health Systems Effectiveness (CHSE), compared low-value care among more than 1.6 million Medicaid and commercially insured patients in Oregon. They found no association between insurance type and low-value care, with Medicaid patients more likely to receive some low-value services but less likely to receive others.

Commercial reimbursement rates are generally much higher than Medicaid rates, so co-authors of this study, Christina Charlesworth, M.P.H., research associate, and John McConnell, Ph.D, associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Emergency Medicine Department and CHSE director, were a “little surprised” to find no consistent association between insurance type and low-value care.  They did find an association between low-value services and geographical practice areas, indicating this care may be more closely related to local norms or access to equipment than to reimbursement generosity or insurance benefit structures. Results of this study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, provide key information for the medical community, policy makers, and patients in their efforts to improve value in health care.

OHSU researchers develop new technique for selecting gene-corrected cells

Gene therapy offers great promise for treating genetic disorders and in repairing or correcting injury and disease. However, efforts to modify and expand the pool of gene-edited cells to reach therapeutic levels have proved challenging to date. Current methods are not only time consuming and expensive, but also present a risk to the patient. Now a team of researchers led by Sean Nygaard, B.S., M.Div., senior research associate in the Markus Grompe Lab at OHSU’s Oregon Stem Cell Center, has developed a new technique that may help overcome this hurdle. In the June 8 edition of Science Translational Medicine, Nygaard details a new platform technology that selects for gene-edited cells in vivo, allowing therapeutic levels of healthy cells to survive when subjected to toxic drugs such as those used in chemotherapy.

In this study, Nygaard, Markus Grompe, M.D., and colleagues injected cells that had been genetically modified to be resistant to a toxic drug, CEHPOBA, into the livers of live mice. They then treated the animals with CEHPOBA or saline for several weeks. They found that those treated with the drug saw an order-of-magnitude increased trans-gene expression compared with the mice treated with saline. So by treating a population of liver cells with the drug, the researchers ensured that only the gene-corrected cells survived and repopulated the liver.

This universal method of selection can be used to support cell-based treatments for genetic disease such as hemophilia B and metabolic liver diseases, or extended to any tissue that proliferates after injury, including the bone marrow and skin, Nygaard’s study found.

Nygaard was first author on this paper, “A universal system to select gene-modified hepatocytes in vivo.” Grompe was corresponding author. Coauthors are Adi Barzel, Ph.D. formerly at Stanford University School of Medicine (currently at Tel Aviv University), Annelise Haft, senior research assistant in the Grompe Lab, Angela Major, Baylor College of Medicine, Milton Finegold, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine, Mark A. Kay, M.D., Ph.D, Stanford University School of Medicine.

Planning for an animal facility emergency or disaster

Any research animal housed in an OHSU animal facility could eventually be affected by an emergency or disaster. New federal regulations require institutions to “establish a disaster plan in conjunction with the responsible investigators, taking into consideration both the priorities for triaging animal populations and the institutional needs and resources. Animals that cannot be relocated or protected from the consequences of the disaster must be humanely euthanized” (from The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 8th Edition.) If an earthquake, fire, or other event affects OHSU’s animal facilities, quick decisions will need to be made about what to do with the animals, especially whether animals could be safely moved to another campus animal housing area. Appropriate housing space would likely be limited, and animals would need to be triaged, making it necessary to humanely euthanize some populations and move others to a safe location.

Therefore, all principal investigators using animals for research should develop a triage plan for irreplaceable animals that are currently housed at OHSU.

To help with this effort, the Department of Comparative Medicine (DCM) is providing gold stars that can be attached to the cage cards of animals deemed most important by PIs. In conjunction with research staff, DCM will make every reasonable effort to protect or move the identified cages. These stars can be obtained from the DCM office in Biomedical Research Building, room B110.

In the event of a disaster or emergency, please be aware that there may be limited housing areas available. Depending on the type and severity of the event, the possibility also exists that no suitable housing would be available. With this in mind, limit the marking of cages to the minimum number needed with no more than five total per protocol.

Also, PIs should consider cryopreserving valuable or irreplaceable strains through the OHSU Transgenic Mouse Models Core Facility. Arrangements for rodent cryopreservation can be made by contacting Dr. Lev Fedorov.

Contact information for all PIs and PI staff must be kept current within the animal facilities and in the eIACUC so that facility personnel are able to be reached in case of an emergency.

Question? Contact Kim Saunders at saunderk@ohsu.edu.

Data Jamboree: Code Your Graph, June 24

This Friday’s Data Jamboree is devoted to techniques and tools for data visualization. Bring your laptop for hands-on tutorials on ggplot and matplotlib. A keynote talk on visualizing high dimensional data will also be presented by Kemal Sonmez, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Computational Biology Program, and Julja Burchard, scientific director of the Bioinformatics Core. Everyone is welcome!CodeYourGraph

June 24, 2:30 – 5:00 PM
OHSU Auditorium

Arrive by 2:30 for help installing software packages! Food & drink will be provided. Sponsored by Computational Biology & the OHSU Library.

Questions? Contact sonmezk@ohsu.ed or margolin@ohsu.edu.

OHSU researchers: Changes coming to the PI Eligibility Policy

The Office of the Senior Vice President for Research has revised the eligibility requirements for who can serve as a principal investigator at OHSU. The new policy merges two separate policies: the one that determines who can serve as a PI for sponsored projects (grants) and the one that determines who can serve as a PI for scientific protocols. Most importantly, the policy addresses OHSU’s new faculty appointment structure. The main functional change is that approval from the provost may now be required for non-faculty researchers (except for students and postdocs, who can still be PIs on their fellowship awards). More details can be found on OPAM’s O2 site or on the Research and Development Administration policies page. The policy change goes into effect on July 1, 2016.

OHSU breaks ground on cancer research facility

OHSU broke ground June 16 on its newest building, the 320,000-square-foot Knight Cancer Institute research facility on the South Waterfront. Located north of the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, the new facility will house up to 600 researchers and administrators dedicated to research programs in early cancer detection, computational biology, immuno-oncology, leukemia, prostate, and other areas. Construction is slated to be complete in July 2018.

Visit the OHSU news website and the Knight News blog for more details about the types of research the building will house, the approach to design and construction, building renderings, photos from the groundbreaking event, and more.

OHSU researchers launch initiative to reduce transplant wait times

As many as 22 patients die each day while waiting for a needed organ. Beyond the human cost, the U.S. health care system spends billions of dollars on life-sustaining treatments for those on the organ transplant waiting list. On June 13, the White House unveiled a new initiative to address challenges associated with organ donation and transplantation in the U.S. Included in the key actions is a three-year, $4.2 million grant to researchers at OHSU, as well as other partners, from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. This grant launches the Donor Management Research Initiative, a collaboration among researchers at OHSU, the University of California San Francisco,  and the United Network for Organ Sharing. The Donor Management Research Initiative aims to save lives by providing robust evidence to maximize the number of organs per donor as well as ensure excellent quality.

The Obama Administration will be working with dozens of companies, foundations, universities, hospitals, and patient advocacy groups to improve outcomes for patients waiting for organ transplants and support for living donors. Key focus areas include developing techniques to bio-fabricate tissues that may one day lead to organ replacement, improving registration systems, using alternative media outreach to increase the number of donors, and creating paired donation, which pools living donors and recipients to increase the likelihood of matches.

The Donor Management Research Initiative, led by Darren Malinoski, M.D., F.A.C.S., associate professor of surgery, OHSU School of Medicine, and assistant chief of surgery – research and education, section chief, surgical critical care, VA Portland Health Care System, will build on groundwork laid by the research community over the past eight years. A major focus of their work will include producing new evidence-based standards of care by expanding a national, web-based donor management data registry and conducting rigorous randomized controlled trials.

The White House announcement has garnered media interest; more information and commentary can be found in The Washington Post, Nephrology News, The Portland Business Journal, and the Morning Consult.

The Obama Administration has committed to providing an update in the next 180 days, which will report on the continued progress of actions announced this week. You can also watch the video of the White House Organ Summit.

OHSU Postdoctoral Association, RIPPS host distinguished lecturer Louis J. Picker, June 29

The OHSU Postdoctoral Association and the Research in Progress Seminar Series (RIPPS) invite you to the 2016 Distinguished Lecture with speaker Louis J. Picker, M.D., associate director, OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute; professor, departments of pathology and molecular microbiology and immunology, OHSU School of Medicine; and senior scientist, Division of Pathology and Immunology, Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC). Picker will present “Cytomegalovirus (CMV) vectors: Recruiting an ancient warrior to defeat HIV.”

2016 Distinguished Lecture: Louis Picker, M.D.
Wednesday, June 29

4 to 5 p.m.
Richard Jones Hall, 4320
Marquam Hill

Picker’s work toward finding a cure for HIV achieved a significant milestone at the beginning of June when OHSU opened up recruitment for potential volunteers for the first human tests of its promising HIV vaccine. The vaccine to be tested is based on a weakened but “live” version of cytomegalovirus that’s been engineered to look like HIV to the immune system. Since cytomegalovirus keeps the immune system’s killer T cells on high alert, Picker found he can train the body to attack HIV by stitching HIV-like bits onto cytomegalovirus. Learn more about Picker’s work to develop an HIV vaccine here.

About Louis Picker
Louis Picker graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in bacteriology in 1978 and took his M.D. degree at the University of California at San Francisco in 1982. After residency training in pathology at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, and postdoctoral training in immunology at Stanford University Medical Center, he was appointed assistant professor and then associate professor of pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. In 1999, he came to OHSU and ONPRC as professor of pathology/molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine and head of the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology.


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