The Faculty Effect

OHSU Extra, Winter 2013

Hippocrates. Elizabeth Blackwell. Jonas Salk. Behind almost every major advance in medicine, there is a brilliant individual whose single-minded focus inspired teams, broke through barriers and persevered over years to attain the impossible. In 2009 OHSU set out to raise $100 million in three years to support visionary researchers and clinicians through the Faculty Support Initiative.OHSU supporters came through – and then some. By the time the campaign concluded in June 2012, more than 8,000 foundations,corporations, and individuals had invested $169 million – nearly 70 percent more than the original three-year goal. Supporting faculty will always be a top philanthropic priority for OHSU – and one of the most gratifying investments for our donors.

Donors contributed to OHSU through the Faculty Support Initiative in a variety of vital ways – endowing faculty positions, helping to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, and investing in game-changing projects.The following are examples of the kind of leadership and progress the initiative made possible.

IMPACT: Accelerating new treatments for breast cancer 

One of the most effective tools for attracting – and keeping – talented faculty is to provide them with endowed funding. Be it a chair, professorship or research fund, endowed support provides a stable stream of funding in perpetuity, encouraging leaders to explore new ideas and assemble the best teams.

The Boyle family of Portland well understood the power of endowment, and saw it as the perfect vehicle for honoring the legacy of the late Hildegard Lamfrom, Ph.D., an influential scientist and the sister of Gert Boyle, chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear. With investment from Gert Boyle and Tim and Mary Boyle, OHSU established the Hildegard Lamfrom Endowed Chair in Basic Science in 2010. This prestigious chair helped attract leading breast cancer researcher Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., world-renowned for her work exploring how cells that surround a tumor fuel its growth. In addition to helping recruit new faculty,the Boyles' gift has helped to leverage additional investments which will speed the rate at which new cancer treatments reach patients.

"Investment in new faculty and technology will help us better understand cancer and develop durable, personalized therapies to treat them. We are grateful for the generous support of donors like the Boyles and all others who are helping make our vision a reality," said Brian Druker,M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

IMPACT: Unlocking the mysteries of parasite-borne disease 

Faculty Support Initiative funds made it possible for OHSU to create a special endowed professorship for Scott M. Landfear, Ph.D., an exceptional basic scientist. Landfear's lab is developing a new understanding of the life cycles of parasites that transmit diseases such as sleeping sickness, which kills tens of thousands of Africans every year.

Philanthropic resources for Landfear's professorship came in the form of unrestricted bequests. These flexible estate gifts allowed OHSU worthy of additional support.

"The combination of philanthropic dollars and peer support made it possible for Landfear to assemble one of the leading teams in the nation exploring parasite-borne disease," said Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and associate dean for research. "Their work will make an important impact on global health."

IMPACT: Racing toward important new insights

Some of OHSU's most far-reaching research advances have been made possible by sophisticated computing and imaging technology.The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust helped OHSU dream big in 2009 by providing $475,000 to fund a "next generation" DNA sequencer.

The instrument has transformed OHSU investigators' ability to identify genetic mutations that lead to disease and to predict how a patient will respond to treatments.

"It's about a thousand times faster than the systems used to sequence the human genome,"said Robert Hitzemann, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience. "This sequencer allows us to analyze information in a way never before possible."

Already the sequencer has helped researchers gain new insight into the genetic components of cancer and alcoholism. The instrument's presence on campus has also helped OHSU research groups qualify for more than $5 million in additional funding, and is a key factor in several important pending faculty recruitments.

IMPACT: New hope for treating inherited disease

During the past two decades, advances in gene therapies have opened the door to an entirely new approach to treating genetically based diseases,including many eye diseases. Specialists at the OHSU Casey Eye Institute have pioneered techniques for inserting healthy genes directly into the eye, where they may be able to prevent progressive vision loss.Other technological breakthroughs have made it easier for them to isolate which genes are the cause of eye disease, enabling early diagnosis and potential treatment. Donor support has now made it possible for Casey's exceptional researchers and clinicians to test these promising leads through clinical trials.

With leadership from donors such as Paul Casey, Maureen Casey, Mike Clark, and Joanne Lilley, Casey Eye Institute launched the Translational Clinical Trials Center (TCTC). Today the center is a world leader in advancing the field of gene therapy. Treatments under study at Casey are the first of their kind in the world and Casey is rapidly becoming a resource for other eye centers seeking guidance on clinical trials.

"We knew we had all the right elements in place to become a nationally prominent clinical trials center – this infusion of donor support turned that potential into reality," said David Wilson, M.D.,director of the OHSU Casey Eye Institute.