ROI: Biomedical Research Building

OHSU Extra, Summer 2010

OHSU’s state-of-the-art BRB laboratory cost $140 million to build in 2005 – with nearly $40 million coming from private investments. So just how much has this jewel in OHSU’s research crown contributed to science and human health? An immeasurable amount.

Here’s the return on our BRB investment:

• Incredible research breakthroughs

• Nearly 100 of the nation’s best scientists

• Some of the world’s most powerful research tools

• Nearly $200 million in new grant dollars

• And faster access to the best that medical science has to offer

And that’s just the first five years

As one of the cornerstone initiatives of the $500 million public-private Oregon Opportunity campaign to advance Oregon Health & Science University, the Biomedical Research Building, or BRB, was billed as an opportunity to invent, from the ground up, a state-of-the-art laboratory where today’s top scientists would produce tomorrow’s cures. It was made possible by a public investment of $100 million in combination with nearly $40 million in private gifts from enthusiastic donors. Its construction in 2005 fulfilled OHSU’s long-term objective to double the size of its research footprint while significantly expanding research infrastructure.

Today that vision has been realized. The bustling 11-story research tower high on OHSU’s Marquam Hill hums with activity as more than 350 scientific and support staff carry out lifesaving work in state-of-the-art laboratories with some of the best city views around. But the most inspiring views are inside the laboratories themselves, where worldclass scientists work side by side seeking new treatments and cures for adult and pediatric diseases.

“The research being conducted in the BRB is some of the most pioneering in the world,” said OHSU Vice President for Research Daniel Dorsa, Ph.D. “The environment created by the building, along with the incredible research tools it contains, are a big part of that equation. The positive impact it’s having on our scientists is being felt throughout the scientific community at OHSU.”

If the scientists are happy, then the friends and donors who made possible the BRB’s construction can be ecstatic. Collective public and private investment has delivered exceptional new faculty, new research grants, breathtaking scientific capabilities, and powerful interdisciplinary collaborations.

All told the BRB is fueling OHSU’s rising national prominence in translational research – the push to move laboratory breakthroughs into the clinical setting far more rapidly than before. The net result of that will be the lasting legacy of the BRB: faster access for patients to the best that medical science has to offer.


In only a few short years, investigators working in the BRB have been involved in a wide range of high-impact research (see sidebar, right) that are significantly expanding scientific knowledge and bringing patients new and better treatments – faster.


The BRB continues to be a magnet for some of the hottest scientific talent in the nation. Early on, the potential to construct a custom cardiovascular imaging laboratory helped to lure Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., and his entire research team to OHSU from the University of Virginia. Kaul is the head of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and a pioneer in a very promising area of imaging technology in which ultrasound and microbubbles are used to diagnose the causes of chest pain and deliver medicines to specific sites in the body with pinpoint accuracy.

Charles Springer, Ph.D., came to OHSU from Brookhaven National Laboratory to establish the Advanced Imaging Research Center. As the center has grown, public and private investment enabled the installation of some of the world’s most powerful magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems for research and diagnostics. Meanwhile, in another aspect of the imaging sciences, the Jungers Center for Neurosciences Research established an Advanced Light Microscopy Core Resource in the BRB, a unique resource that has fuelled collaborations with more than 80 investigators from 49 different research groups.

The Jungers Center also attracted Gary Banker, Ph.D., and Fred Robinson, Ph.D., two world-famous neuroscientists, to the OHSU faculty, as well as Stefanie Kaech, Ph.D., a leader in neuroimaging, to direct the new Advanced Light Microscopy Core.

Markus Grompe, M.D., was already an established faculty researcher and director of the Oregon Stem Cell Center. As one of OHSU’s most productive scientists, he was repeatedly being recruited by other institutions. The ability to name him the first Ray Hickey Chair for Pediatric Research and the Director of the Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute in the BRB gave Grompe the opportunity to pursue – at OHSU – his vision of gene- and cell-based cures for metabolic liver diseases, diabetes, Fanconi anemia, and rare cancers for which there are currently no adequate treatments.

B is for Building Bridges

The design of the BRB is advancing interdisciplinary collaboration between teams working within the building, across campus and around the world.

At the most fundamental level, the building’s design and resources are enabling interactions that are essential to scientific progress. Some of OHSU’s most powerful collaborative research tools, notably the Advanced Imaging Research Center (home to some of the world’s most powerful imaging capabilities) as well as the Oregon Stem Cell Center and the Program in Chemical Biology, are housed here. These centers contribute vital data to the work of many research teams while making independent contributions to basic science understanding.

The BRB’s space plan has also created a physical connection between OHSU’s education, scientific and clinical operations that all but eliminates the time lost in transit between clinics, research labs and academic offices. It also enables patients participating in clinical trials to make use of the BRB’s unsurpassed imaging capabilities.

BRB Breakthroughs

• A better way to determine the malignancy of breast tumors
• A novel imaging method to help ER physicians evaluate heart attack risks in patients with chest pain
• A better understanding of the role of specific genes in inflammatory disease
• Key discoveries about the causes and impacts of brain injury in premature infants
• A solution for overcoming tumor resistance to a life-saving cancer medicine
• An unexpected source for growing human liver cells
• A potential method to block molecular signaling in certain metabolic disorders and halt wasting effects
• A promising new drug therapy for treating allergic asthma
• New modeling and simulation tools for studying molecular processes in cystic fibrosis