2017 Chemical Biology and Physiology conference, Dec. 10–13

OHSU tramThe 2017 Chemical Biology and Physiology conference will be hosted by the OHSU Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, from December 10 to 13 in Portland.

2017 Chemical Biology and Physiology conference
December 10 to 13, 2017
Collaborative Life Sciences Bldg.
2730 SW Moody Ave, Portland, OR 97201

Attendees will hear world-class speakers in areas such as chemical physiology, signaling, lipids/metabolomics, proteins and peptides, optical and imaging tools, and therapeutic innovations. Short talks are selected from poster abstract submissions.

Keynote speakers include Dirk Trauner, Ph.D., New York University; Alanna Schepartz, Ph.D., Yale University; Kevan Shokat, Ph.D., UC Berkeley, UCSF, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Craig Crews, Ph.D., Yale University.

Visit the conference website for additional information, including a full list of speakers, and to register. OHSU registration is $150.00 and includes food.

Open Science panel: The evolving landscape of scientific communication, Dec. 8

OHSU logoThe landscape of scientific communication is changing dramatically. Diverse stakeholders, including major funders and universities, are demonstrating a growing interest and investment in open scientific principles and practices. Researchers, students, and the institutions that support them are needing to navigate new expectations, workflows, and policies against a backdrop of relatively unchanged means and measures of scientific success.

Open Science at OHSU
Friday, Dec. 8
Panel discussion from 3 to 4 p.m.; refreshments and workshops 4 to 5:30 p.m.
Vollum M1441 (panel and workshop 1), M1443 (workshop 2)
Everyone is welcome to attend.

Sound complicated? Join us for a panel discussion with OHSU leaders and early career researchers on the evolving landscape of scientific communication. We’ll explore the drivers behind the calls for “openness,” what this means in practice, and the real world compatibility and tensions between open science and student, researcher, and institutional success.

Confirmed panelists:

Dr. Hill and Robin Champieux, assistant professor and scholarly communication librarian, will demonstrate tools and methods for building transparency within a lab and onboarding new graduate students and postdocs. Attendees will have access to a GitHub template repository and code of conduct designed to facilitate a healthy and productive learning and research environment. You’ll be able to use these tools to communicate expectations, document protocols, receive feedback, and facilitate the long-term value of students’ and trainees’ contributions.

Daniela Saderi, graduate student in the neuroscience program, will introduce attendees to the current role of preprints in scientific publishing and the importance of giving peer-to-peer early feedback to the authors. Attendees will have the opportunity to test PREreview, a new resource for engaging with other scientists and master peer-reviewing by collaboratively writing preprint reviews after discussing them at journal clubs.

Please contact Robin Champieux (champieu@ohsu.edu) to RSVP or with questions.

OHSU Researchers: Core Pilot Funds – Update

Update 2 – December 1, 2017: 

The University Shared Resources program would like to thank those who applied for FY2018 USR Pilot Fund Grants. They received nearly double the number of applications from 2016 and are working to process them all as quickly as possible. They hope to notify all applicants with a decision on or before Friday, December 8, 2017–and they appreciate the interest in this program. Stay tuned for future opportunities.

Update: the deadline for this funding opportunity has been extended to November 14.

The OHSU University Shared Resources program and the Senior Vice President for Research Office are soliciting grant applications for the USR Core Pilot Fund Grants program. Individual award amounts will vary depending on projected expenses in the proposed core and will be based on need. An upper limit of $10,000 is set for pilot awards utilizing higher-cost core resources and services, although applications of lower amounts may receive priority. The full award must be used in the cores specified in the grant application and only for the services described. A total of $100,000 is reserved for this funding mechanism in FY 2018.

Eligible costs are for core services associated with the development and submission of new grants, including consultation time, reagents, supplies and technical staff time for assisting investigators.


  • Applicants can use any OHSU core to be considered eligible to receive pilot funding money, but preference will be given to USR cores. Cores must receive all awarded funds. If a portion of the job must be sub-contracted, sub-contracts must be arranged by the core.
  • The competition is open to all OHSU faculty in all schools, institutes, and centers. Projects that support a trainee’s work are also eligible.
  • Previous awardees are eligible to apply with a new project, but new applicants may be given priority.

See full instructions and submit your applications through OHSU’s Competitive Application Portal (CAP).

Please note:  Applicants must consult with the director of the designated core prior to application submission.

Applications are due November 14 and awards will be announced November 30, 2017.


Research Administration: Effort and salary cap classes in December

Very soon, we will be at the end of yet another Effort cycle on December 30, 2017. Get a jump on your effort tracking, reporting process, and salary cap coordination with these upcoming classes.

Effort Certification

Examine not only the federal requirements that shape institutional policy but also details of OHSU’s Effort Certification procedure. This class is for department Effort Coordinators and those supporting or overseeing certification of Effort. See the detailed class description and enroll via Compass using your network credentials.

Tuesday, Dec. 5
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Center for Health & Healing, 3171 1A

DHHS Salary Cap
If you’re responsible in some way for sponsored project finances and if this includes any researchers with a salary even a penny above the current DHHS salary cap of $187,000, this class is for you!

Gain tools for making the complex process of budgeting and managing salaries over the cap more manageable. See the detailed class description and enroll via Compass using your network credentials.

Tuesday, Dec. 12
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Center for Health & Healing, 3171 1A

These and other classes are described in more detail on the Research Administration Training & Education (RATE) site.

For more information, please contact Margaret Gardner.

Sex, cognition, and stimulating neurons: Katie Wallin-Miller featured in OHSU In the Lab

Men and women suffer from mental illnesses at the same rate, but the kinds of disorders that tend to occur in men and women are very different. Katie Wallin-Miller, Ph.D., studies sex differences in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying mental processes of cognition. Understanding the basis of these differences may lead to more effective treatments for mental illnesses. Wallin-Miller is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of  Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., where research focuses on the neurobiology of mental illness.

What are you studying and why is it important?

Postdoc Katie Wallin-Miller presented at NogginFest — part-research presentation, part art show, part benefit concert for NW Noggin — a non-profit that brings neuroscience to the masses.

Postdoc Katie Wallin-Miller presented at NogginFest — part-research presentation, part benefit concert for NW Noggin — a non-profit that brings neuroscience to the masses.

My specific focus is on sex differences in what’s called executive function, which governs decision-making, inhibition and how well we adapt to situations. I work with rats, and I start out looking at behaviors. If there’s a behavioral difference in the males and females, it’s important to understand the cause. I look for differences in brain physiology and anatomy to explain the sex differences in behavior and cognition. In the history of the discipline, almost all neuroscience has studied male subjects. But understanding the differences can help both sexes. Men, for instance, are much more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Understanding what protects women could be helpful in developing avenues for treatments for everyone.

What’s been your most exciting moment of discovery?

It’s not so much a moment of discovery as an experience — the experience of being able to see and manipulate the physical world at the level a single cell. One of the most amazing moments of my life was the first time I stimulated a neuron. It’s very geeky, but I basically took control of a cell that receives, processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. This was something I’d read about and seen in books since I was a sophomore in college. First, we modified the neuron so it was sensitive to light. Then we shined light on it, and it fired. It was amazing. Actually seeing a neuron in action was the neurobiological version of the difference between looking at a photo of the Mona Lisa and seeing it — or understanding the science of an eclipse versus experiencing one.

What’s your day-to-day life as a researcher like?

It involves a lot of thinking. A lot of thinking and reading. The most important aspect of being a postdoc is thinking of good questions and then determining good ways to ask those questions. What’s the best way to design a study? In my case, I need to be careful to create paradigms that can be appropriate for males and females. So I think, design studies, then conduct experiments and analyze the data. And the data always says things that you don’t expect — so I assess and revise my approach.

About In the Lab

OHSU In the Lab publishes every third Thursday on O2 (login required). The series looks at the people in the laboratories who help make OHSU such a vibrant research institution. In each post, researchers describe their current work and answer the same three questions.


New treatment may address imatinib-resistant tumors

Each year, 3,000 to 6,000 people are diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)—the most common sarcoma of the gastrointestinal tract. Imatinib myeslate, or Gleevec®, has proved to be a highly effective therapy for many patients with GIST, although long-term survival is poor due to the development of imatinib-resistant GIST mutation types.

Michael Heinrich, M.D., Heinrich, professor of hematology and medical oncology in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, School of Medicine, and practicing physician at the VA Portland Health System, demonstrated that the highly selective compound BLU-285 inhibits well-characterized disease-driving KIT mutants both in vitro and in vivo in preclinical models

Michael Heinrich, M.D., Knight Cancer Institute, and an international team of scientists reported data showing promise for treatment of rare stomach cancer.

Research recently published in Science Translational Medicine demonstrated promising results for a new treatment, BLU-285, which specifically targets two of the most common imatinib-resistant GIST mutations: KIT and PDGFRA.  With an international team of researchers, co-author Michael Heinrich, M.D., professor of hematology and medical oncology in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, School of Medicine, and practicing physician at the VA Portland Health System, showed that the highly selective compound BLU-285 inhibits well-characterized disease-driving KIT mutants both in vitro and in vivo in preclinical models.

The data show 67 percent of patients with heavily pretreated KIT-driven GIST treated with BLU-285 had radiographic tumor reductions. Based on this data, the current Phase I trial remains ongoing and Blueprint Medicines is planning for a Phase III randomized study.

See OHSU News for more about the BLU-285 clinical trial


Disclosures: Heinrich has worked with Blueprint Medicines, the company that developed BLU-285, as a consultant and is an investigator for Blueprint Medicines’ ongoing Phase 1 GIST study. He has received research funding from Blueprint Medicines and has provided expert testimony for Novartis. Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, is a scientific co-founder of Blueprint Medicines. He was not involved in this clinical trial.

In the interest of ensuring the integrity of our research and as part of our commitment to public transparency, OHSU actively regulates, tracks and manages relationships that our researchers may hold with entities outside of OHSU. Review details of OHSU’s conflict of interest program to find out more about how we manage these business relationships.


Innovation Workshop: Spring to Market, registration now open

Are you wondering if your innovation has market potential? OHSU Technology Transfer and Business Development is hosting an Innovation Workshop, where business executives will teach you to evaluate the market potential of your invention, perform basic market analysis, and create a successful business model to begin taking your idea to market. They will also coach you in pitching your idea to potential partners and investors.

TTBD business developmentOHSU’s Executives-in-Residence members Eric Fogel and Bob Masterson will lead this confidential, interactive discussion, providing real-world examples of successful commercialization pathways.

Innovation Workshop: Spring to Market

The workshop is free but registration is required. Register by Jan. 5 (UPDATE: Registration has been extended to Jan. 16.)

Session 1: Thursday, Jan. 18, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Developing the value proposition and performing market analysis

Session 2: Thursday, Jan. 25, 3:30 to  6:30 p.m.
Creating a business plan and practicing your pitch

OHSU Center for Health & Healing, third floor conference center, room 1B
3303 S.W. Bond Ave., Portland

Participants must attend both sessions and come prepared with a research project or company idea to evaluate. Registration is free and open to all members of the OHSU community. Seating is limited, so please register by Jan. 5.

Register to attend.

Questions? Contact Lisa Lukaesko at lukaesko@ohsu.edu.

New insights into the neural representation of reward and punishment

The ability to weigh the risk of punishment relative to the risk of reward is critical to our ability to make decisions.

Bita Maghaddam, Ph.D., Ruth Matarazzo Professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU

Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., Ruth Matarazzo Professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU

New research by Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., provides fresh insight into how the brain processes reward and punishment. Little has been known about the neural representation of punishment risk during reward-seeking behavior. For people to make the best decisions, our brains need to appropriately represent the punishment that lurks during reward-seeking actions. An exaggerated neural representation of risk may lead to anxiety disorders while deficits in this representation may lead to impulsive behavior and addictive disorders.

Moghaddam, Ruth Matarazzo Professor and chair of behavioral neuroscience at the OHSU School of Medicine, and co-author Junchol Park, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh, modeled the neural representation of punishment risk during reward-seeking behavior using a rodent model.

The team designed and validated a task that allowed them to assess reward-guided actions in the absence or presence of punishment risk. The findings, published in the journal eLife, demonstrated sharp distinctions in the level of coordination between a spike in dopamine neurons and activity within the prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain that regulates complex cognitive functioning.

When there was no risk of punishment, the research team found close coordination between activity in the prefrontal cortex and dopamine levels. When there was a small risk of punishment, there was a marked difference. They found that coordination between the prefrontal cortex and dopamine levels collapsed. That suggests the brain encodes an ingrained assessment of risk in normal circumstances.

The study suggests new avenues of research that could involve functional magnetic resonance imaging of people given risk-reward tasks such as gambling.

Read more about the research at OHSU News.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (grant R56MH084906).

Who’s new at OHSU? Joe Voje

Joe Voje is the Chief Information Security Officer at OHSU

Joe Voje joined OHSU as chief information security officer in May 2017.

Joe Voje is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at OHSU. Before joining OHSU in May, Joe worked as CISO for the City and County of San Francisco. He’s an active contributor to the international and national information security communities, serving on the Certified Chief Information Security Officer advisory board for EC-Council, an international information security training and certification body.

What is your vision for the research community and data security?

I’m committed to enabling our research community to do the great work they’re doing. My job isn’t to burden anyone with security for security’s sake. Rather, it’s to address the threats to our collective information and computing environment by applying reasonable controls. Defining what’s reasonable means working together, and I’m looking forward to partnering with our research community.

How would you describe your role as CISO?

My primary function is to help the organization make decisions that mitigate risks to our information (data) and our operational system. That requires a deep understanding of the types of internal and external threats to OHSU’s information resources. Although most folks only see a piece of what we do protect OHSU, there is a larger program involving a lot people, processes and technology that allows us to keep the right information at employees’ fingertips when and where it is needed.

What do you like best about your job? 

I enjoy working with people to solve complex problems — and there are some pretty complex problems in the cybersecurity and privacy worlds. Organized crime, nation-state hackers, natural disasters — any one or combination of these can emerge instantly to make for a challenging day. I like to see the end result of our preparations thwart what would otherwise do us harm. Of course, we don’t win them all. And that is the challenge — can we build a program that enables us to win regularly?

What do you like least about your job?

I don’t like to lose. I don’t like anyone on our team to lose. There have been occasions when I’ve seen skilled people fail to prevent a breach, even following best practices. The online world offers a lot of time-saving and potential for collaboration and innovation, but brings threats that require us to remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and addressing our vulnerabilities.

What unique information privacy and security challenges do you see for researchers at OHSU and elsewhere?

The threats to researchers really boil down to three main areas. The first area has to do with the confidentiality, integrity and availability of research data. Most researchers are focused on their research, not confidentiality. In fact, confidentiality often runs counter to the purpose of research, but it’s necessary in certain circumstances: Grant language may require it, protected health information may be involved, or exposure might jeopardize the researcher’s intellectual property claims, for example. In addition to confidentiality concerns, unauthorized access to a researcher’s system or data can call into question the integrity of the data source and compromise their results. The flip side to unauthorized access is unauthorized destruction or disappearing of data — ransomware or sophisticated denial-of-service attacks can potentially cut off access to needed resources.

The next area is the compromise of very powerful computer clusters and supercomputer platforms. Most, if not all, academic research institutions have very powerful computing platforms that have the ability to be turned against the institutions themselves or used by criminals for profit

Lastly, researchers frequently use non-standard or specialized equipment and software. Often, security isn’t considered in the design of this equipment and software, or it isn’t regularly updated to address emerging threats. That exposes the research environment to potential compromise, as well as the institution as a whole.

How can OHSU researchers address such challenges?

The best strategy is to consider security as part of the overall research project. Think about how the information could be monetized and by whom. Think about the systems you use and how they are connected to other systems and devices, and implement the principle of least privilege. The Information Privacy and Security team is here to assist you with your efforts.


— Submitted by Melissa Flitsch,  Communications Specialist, Information Privacy & Security

NIMH new innovator award recognizes leader in autism research

Brian J. O’Roak, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Brian O’Roak was one of 11 scientists to receive the 2017 NIMH BRAINS award.

The National Institutes of Mental Health has awarded a highly competitive research grant to Brian J. O’Roak, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine. The grant, $2.5 million over five years, is part of the NIMH Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists, or BRAINS, program and recognizes O’Roak as an autism research innovator who has the potential to transform the field.

The BRAINS program was established in 2009 to assist early-stage investigators in launching innovative research programs that hold the potential to profoundly transform the understanding, diagnosis, treatment or prevention of mental disorders. O’Roak was one of only 11 scientists receiving the 2017 BRAINS award.

Over the past decade, O’Roak has conducted pioneering work into the genetics of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. Through these efforts hundreds of novel autism risk genes have been identified. Moving forward, O’Roak and his team will use the BRAINS award to begin to unravel how patient-specific mutations in the autism risk gene, TBR1, alter the developing brain. TBR1 is a recently identified high confidence autism risk gene, which is mutated in roughly 0.2 percent of individuals with autism. This equates to thousands of individuals in the US with TBR1-related autism spectrum disorder. The TBR1 protein functions as a transcription factor that controls whether hundreds of target genes are expressed or repressed during brain development. These target genes collectively form a TBR1-regulated network or pathway. TBR1 also regulates roughly one-third of other high confidence autism risk genes, making it a potential ‘master regulator’ of a critical autism-related network.

To understand how mutations in TBR1 affect human brain development, the lab will use cutting-edge methods including, ‘adult stem cells’ and 3D printed miniature bioreactors to mimic brain development in a lab dish. Kevin Wright, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Vollum Institute, and Andrew Adey, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics and the Knight cardiovascular institute, are co-investigators on the project, bringing complementary expertise in modeling brain development and single-cell genomics. By understanding this master regulator, the team hopes to have an unprecedented view into a potential common genetic path that leads to autism.

O’Roak’s team hopes to leverage this new knowledge for early interventions and biologically based personalized therapies, which could improve the lives of individuals affected by autism. In addition, O’Roak co-leads the OHSU network site for SPARK, the largest autism study ever conducted in the United States. The project aims to accelerate autism research by creating a national registry of 50,000 individuals and families affected by autism. He has previously been awarded the Alfred P. Sloan and Klingenstein-Simons fellowships in neuroscience and the NARSAD Young Investigator award.

O’Roak was presented with the BRAINS award at the 2017 Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington D.C. on November 12.

Welcome to the Research News Blog

Welcome to the Research News Blog

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