Webinar on The National Microbiome Initiative, Sept. 16

nmiIn May of this year the White House announced a collaboration with various Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders to foster the study of microbiomes, communities of microorganisms, across different systems. The National Microbiome Initiative supports interdisciplinary research, development of platform technologies, and expansion of the microbiome workforce with the aim of protecting and restoring healthy microbiome function.


Stefano Bertuzzi

Microbiomes live on or in people, plants, soil, oceans, and the atmosphere, but how do they impact human health? Join Research!America for a webinar led by Stefano Bertruzzi, Ph.D., M.P.H., executive director and CEO of the American Society for Microbiology, who will provide an overview of the NMI, and insight about the implications and opportunities that will arise from this massive undertaking.

“The Microbiome Initiative: A closer look”

Friday, Sept. 16, 2016
10:00 – 10:30 a.m. PDT

Register today.


NRSA application workshop: Technical components, Oct. 11

If you’re planning to apply for a pre- or post-doctoral NRSA fellowship from the NIH in the near future, we encourage you to attend this workshop to learn about essential, non-research elements of your fellowship application. Topics covered include elements needed for an InfoEd proposal, how to develop a budget, how to manage reference letters, biosketches and PMCID numbers, and elements of a great training plan.

This upcoming workshop is led by Johanna Colgrove, coordinator of the MD/PhD program, Gavin Hamilton, grants and contracts administrator with the Office of Proposal and Award Management, and Rachel Dresbeck, Ph.D., director of Research Development and Academic Communications.

NRSA Application Workshop
Tuesday, Oct. 11
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mackenzie Hall 2136 3198

Open to researchers and administrators. Registration now available on Compass.

TTBD expands entrepreneur-in-residence program

After a one-year launch, Technology Transfer and Business Development is expanding its entrepreneur-in-residence program. The program has recruited two additional entrepreneurs-in-residence to provide support to inventor teams and new companies that form when they license technology intellectual property from OHSU. The current entrepreneurs-in-residence, Richard Rylander and Robert Masterson, have helped inventors by saving them time and resources, performing faculty education and outreach, providing grant support, and executing management oversight and commercialization guidance. The new entrepreneurs-in-residence will join the program to continue identifying technologies with commercial promise and provide OHSU researchers with real-world insights about the commercialization process. The new entrepreneurs-in-residence begin their residency at OHSU on Sept. 14.


Rob Arnold, new OHSU entrepreneur-in-residence

Rob Arnold is a healthcare innovation advisor at the University of Washington and partner at Quad+Aim Partners, advising emerging-growth companies on business strategy, planning, and investment. Prior to UW, Arnold was CEO of Geospiza, Inc., a leader in cloud computing solutions for genetic analysis, which was sold to Perkin Elmer in May of 2011. Before that, he was CEO of Crossport Systems, a leader in internet security solutions, which was sold to Lineo/Metrowerks, a division of Motorola. Arnold also co-founded and was CEO of ST Labs, Inc., an international leader in software quality assurance and testing, which was sold to Lionbridge.



Steve Runnels, new OHSU entrepreneur-in-residence

Steve Runnels has more than twenty-eight years of management experience in the healthcare industry. He has held the position of president and CEO of several startup biopharmaceutical companies in the US and Internationally. He was executive vice president and board member of publicly traded NeoTherapeutics, Inc. and vice president of marketing and business development at Sigma-Aldrich, a Fortune 500 company. Mr. Runnels is also an entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Washington. Mr. Runnels holds a B.S. in cell biology and certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathology as a specialist in immunohematology. He is an M.B.A. and Ph.D. candidate in management.

To see a video of TTBD’s Lunch & Learn presentation on “How to start a company,” presented by entrepreneurs-in-residence, please click here.

For more information on the entrepreneur-in-residence program or to inquire about startup companies at OHSU, please contact Daphne Emerson at emersond@ohsu.edu.

Available now: New express rights option program for OHSU startups

948171048_ab19e27ef4_zBeginning Sept. 1, any newly formed OHSU startup company has the opportunity to obtain time-limited rights to OHSU technology through a new express option agreement program.  New startup companies with founders who are OHSU employees or students now have access to a low-cost, pre-approved agreement that can be completed quickly to secure rights in OHSU technology. This allows the new startup to focus on evaluating the technology further, conducting market research, developing a business plan, and raising funding prior to entering into a more extensive, longer-term license agreement. In general, any technology that has been disclosed to Technology Transfer and Business Development may be eligible for this program.

Benefits of the program include the following:

  • Simple, rapid access to rights to OHSU technology for new startups
  • No time and effort spent on negotiation
  • Quick agreement execution
  • Low upfront costs
  • Six-month agreement term, with the potential for term extension

The goal of the program is to encourage, foster and support the entrepreneurial culture at OHSU. For more information, please refer to the Exclusive Option Agreement for OHSU startups FAQs document or contact Andrew Watson at watsonan@ohsu.edu.

Who’s new at OHSU? Fikadu G. Tafesse, Ph.D.

Fikadu G. Tafesse, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology who is working to understand how pathogens utilize host cellular processes during infection. He arrived at OHSU from Boston in February, 2016.

Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Ethiopia and got my undergraduate degree in agriculture there, learning how to grow crops – basic farming. After graduation, I decided to go to Europe to gain more experience and ended up going to Germany for a master’s degree in horticulture. This was my first introduction to plant biotechnology and for my master’s thesis I worked on a gene family of phospholipases that modify membranes in plants.fikadu

I always wanted to go back home to Ethiopia; I never thought of staying in Europe or moving to the U.S. But during the second year of my master’s program, a friend who was getting his Ph.D. in epigenetics asked me to take pictures during his thesis defense.  Up to that point, I knew very little about his field but when I heard him talk about DNA methylation and the role it plays in cancer development, I was hooked.  In fact, I completely forgot to take pictures because I was so interested in the science! This made me want to go further with my studies before I went back home. I applied to Ph.D. programs and eventually ended up at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. There, I studied under Joost Holthuis and Gerrit van Meer, two lipid biologists. When I joined the lab, I had no idea they were world-renowned because I hadn’t been in the field. I was very fortunate to learn about lipid chemistry and biochemistry from them. I went on to do my postdoc at the Whitehead Institute at MIT and then went to the Ragon Institute at Harvard for more than a year before coming to OHSU.

Tell us about your research and what drew you to it?
Growing up in Ethiopia, I saw many people die of infectious diseases, and as a result I was naturally curious about the biology of these diseases, particularly HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria – the three main killers in developing countries. So, I decided to do my postdoc in a lab where they worked on host-pathogen interactions. That’s why I went to the lab of Hidde Ploegh at the Whitehead Institute of MIT, to work in a lab with immunologists, microbiologists, chemists, and biochemists. There, I learned about viruses, bacteria, and fungi, and my main focus was on how pathogens use the host’s lipids during infection. I then went to the Ragon Institute at Harvard to work closely with the lab of Sarah Fortune and learn about Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Little is known about the role of lipids in bacterial and viral pathogenesis, so I decided to bring what I’d learned in my postdoctoral research to this new line of work.

Human cells are surrounded by membranes, and those membranes contain lipids. Pathogens must cross membranes to infect cells, so what I’m trying to understand is how a virus such as HIV uses the host machinery, especially that of lipids, during infection. A virus doesn’t have machinery of its own, and it uses the host cellular processes for entry and replication without being detected by the immune system. If we can understand the mechanics of this, then we can design a strategy to block it. This is fundamental to combating these diseases.

What are you working on now?
The research focus in my lab is on M. tuberculosis as well as HIV and viruses from the family Flaviviridae, which includes zika, dengue, and yellow fever. M. tuberculosis is a bacteria that causes tuberculosis. If you look at deaths due to infectious disease globally, tuberculosis is one of the most devastating diseases, especially in developing countries. So I wanted to dedicate my career, in a way, to understanding tuberculosis and HIV-tuberculosis co-infections.

The main reason we don’t know much about lipids and their role in infection is because they are difficult to work with. They are not template coded – there is no DNA that really codes for lipids. They are a bi-product of a series of cellular processes such as metabolism. In research terms, you can’t overexpress it or put a tag on it, so you need a special set of skills to work with and study these metabolites. Most of the techniques we use today to study lipid biochemistry were developed in the 1970s and are very outdated. Since I have strong training in this area, I’m comfortable working on lipids and using various techniques, and I am testing out my initial hypothesis – that lipids are required for bacteria to infect host cells. Our preliminary data strongly suggest they do.

When studying the mechanics of infection by various viruses and bacteria, I ask the question, “Is there similarity between the different pathogens in terms of the way they use these lipids?” This is a very important question, because if there is a commonality, you can develop a strategy that impacts multiple diseases.  Finding the answer to that question is my goal.

In addition to my main research program, I’m also developing tools to study M. tuberculosis. The tool I’m developing uses nanobodies, single-domain antibodies that occur only in camelids and sharks. These unique antibodies are extremely small, so they penetrate tissue very well. In terms of their binding, they are as good as conventional antibodies, but they don’t require any post-translational modifications. They’re stable across a wide range of temperatures and in various pH environments. These characteristics make them very easy to work with. My technology development involves generating nanobodies that can be used not only to study the intricate interaction of the bacteria with the host but that also has the potential for diagnostic and therapeutic value. We do this by immunizing Alpaca with antigens such as M. tuberculosis virulence factors, thereby generating nanobodies that target those factors. We then evaluate whether they prevent infection in macrophages. If they have neutralizing capacity, you have a very good candidate to take to the next level of investigation. At this point we have several candidates.

I currently collaborate with folks on the east coast to do the injections, but eventually I want to have an Alpaca farm that I work with here in Oregon. This is one of the programs I really want to pursue because it has very high potential. If you can block that virulence factor, you have a cure. I just want to make a difference. I hope that what I’m doing can have an impact not only in my home country but other developing countries as well. So, I plan to establish collaborations in Ethiopia and other African countries where these diseases are epidemic. It’s important to connect the work to the place where the real problem is – that’s my long term goal.

I was aware of OHSU’s achievements before I came here, particularly in the area of infectious disease such as HIV vaccine development. And with the Oregon National Primate Research Center here, OHSU is a focal point for research into infectious disease in humans. It’s an ideal place to be. On a personal level, as soon as I got here, I really liked the city, the people, this whole region. I knew I could definitely live here, and hey, I’m from Ethiopia – those Boston winters were just too cold for me.

Early-technology development workshop, Sept. 14

Last week, the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute announced its most recent round of funding through the Biomedical Innovation Program: Device, Diagnostic, and Software Development. Commercialization is a key component of the Biomedical Innovation Program and also the area applicants are likely least familiar with. To address this, OCTRI and Technology Transfer and Business Development are teaming up to host a workshop to discuss strategies of concept-to-product development.

“From concept to commercialization: An early-technology development workshop”BIP_workshop_flyer

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016
12 to 1 p.m.
Mackenzie Hall, room 3198
Marquam Hill

OHSU community members will learn about the key aspects of determining innovation commercial feasibility and the general commercialization evaluation process at OHSU. Attendees are encouraged to bring an idea with them to receive in-person support from mentors. The workshop, led by OHSU entrepreneurs-in-residence and OCTRI members, will coincide with the 2016 MedTech Alliance Showcase.

A light lunch will be provided. To attend, please RSVP to Jonathan Jubera at jubera@ohsu.edu.

Learn more about the Biomedical Innovation Program.

NCI seeking novel insights on infectious agents associated with cancer

It is well established that certain infectious agents play a role in cancer in humans. Worldwide, infections are linked to over %15 of cancers with much higher numbers in developing countries. The translational potential for this area of research is significant and may lead to new therapies and interventions. In order to support discoveries that could lead to better diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancers, the National Cancer Institute is seeking input from the biomedical community with research interest in this field for the following:

  • Existing research challenges and gaps in epidemiology studies related to infection-related cancer
  • Recent basic science innovations, approaches, and discoveries in infection-related cancer population-based research
  • Available resources that can be used to investigate the role of infections in cancer occurrence and outcomes
  • Key scientific disciplines that should be integrated with cancer epidemiology to characterize infection-driven carcinogenesis, as well as specific approaches that could be used in the future.
  • Other relevant issues

Send your responses to NCI by October 31, 2016 via email (preferred).


Women in Science leadership panel discussion, Sept. 20

Beth Comstock

Beth Comstock

Join Women in Science Portland for a dynamic discussion examining what it takes to become a leader in STEM. Panelists include two top executives from General Electric and leaders from academia and biotech. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to talk with the women who are trailblazing new territory in leadership!

Women in leadership panel discussion

Tuesday, Sept. 20
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Collaborative Life Sciences Building, 1A001

Featured panelists:

Beth Comstock, vice chair, GE Business Innovations

Charlene Grabowski, general manager and vice president of West Zone and Canada, GE Healthcare

Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research, OHSU

Soundharya Nagasubramanian, M.S., director of research and development and Beaverton site executive, Welch Allyn

The event is free, but space is limited. Register today to attend.

For questions or inquiries, please contact Abby Dotson at dotsoab@ohsu.edu.

Women In Science Portland is an organization that provides personal and professional development opportunities for early career scientists and professionals, as well as students and post-docs. The overall mission is to support the growth of women in sciences.


Researchers study potential treatment to reduce brain swelling after stroke

Brain swelling resulting from a large, acute stroke event causes further damage and can lead to major disability and death, and there are few effect treatment options. Existing drug regimens do not improve survival or functional outcome. Decompressive craniectomy, a surgical procedure to remove part of the skull, allowing the brain to swell without being squeezed, improves outcomes in some patients but increases survival with major disability in others.

Future treatments are likely to target pathways involved in brain swelling, and several potential candidates have been identified. One of these key mediators is a suphonylurea receptor pathway triggered by ischaemia and hypoxia, that can be inhibited by glyburide, a drug given orally to people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. In rodent models of stroke, glyburide, delivered by continuous intravenous infusion, reduces brain swelling. A pilot study involving 10 stroke patients showed the drug is well tolerated, but its efficacy in humans remains unclear.

Holly Hinson, M.D., M.C.R., assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at OHSU, co-authored a paper published on Aug. 23, 2016, in The Lancet Neurology entitled “Safety and efficacy of intravenous glyburide on brain swelling after large hemispheric infarction (GAMES-RP): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial.” The clinical trial involved 77 patients; 41 participants received intravenous glyburide, and 36 received placebo. Outcomes were measured using the modified Rankin Scale from 0-6 where 0 represents no symptoms at all, and 6 represents death. The percentage of people with a score of 0-4 (healthy to moderate disability) at 90 days was not significantly different between the glyburide and placebo groups, and mortality was not significantly reduced overall. However, function outcome measured by the Rankin Scale was improved in patients treated with the active drug.

Though the primary end point was negative, the results are consistent with the preclinical and pilot studies showing the sulphonylurea receptor pathway plays an important role in the formation of brain swelling, and treatment with intravenous glyburide is well tolerated in acute ischemia stroke patients. The study was cut short due to funding issues, resulting in too small a sample size to  provide statistically significant data on efficacy. But the results are encouraging enough to warrant further investigation. A larger phase 3 trial is planned for early 2017.

This research was funded by Remedy Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Yale University School of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburgh, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Washington, and University of Maryland.


Effort certification and DHHS salary cap refresher training, Sept. 6

Do you need a refresher for coordinating effort certification or applying the Department of Health & Human Services salary cap? Join the Research Administration Training and Education program for an overview, examples, and discussion.

Effort certification, salary cap refresher training
Tuesday, Sept. 6

1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Center for Health & Healing, room 3181 (1B)
Register in Compass

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

You are welcome to bring any specific questions or issues that need attention.

Questions? Contact the RATE program.

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