Big Ideas Are Born Here Share This OHSU Content

What’s a big idea? In the world of health care and biomedical research, big ideas are discoveries that fundamentally transform what is possible. They jumpstart new thinking and ignite new hope. At Oregon Health & Science University, big ideas come in all shapes and sizes, but the biggest and best have one thing in common—they change the world for patients and families. Here are a few that make us proud:

A Pill That Stops Cancer

Dr. Brian Druker

Dr. Brian Druker

OHSU’s Lasker Award winning Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, led the development of Gleevec, a pill that stops chronic myeloid leukemia and other cancers by turning off the molecular switch that drives its spread.

Watch a video highlighting the work of Dr. Druker and his colleagues in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

A Valve that Heals Hearts

Dr. Albert Starr

Dr. Albert Starr

Lasker winner and pioneering cardiac surgeon Albert Starr, M.D., co-invented and implanted the world’s first successful artificial heart valve at OHSU, transforming the treatment of valve disease and giving rise to a vibrant sector in the medical device industry.

Hear Drs. Starr and Kaul discuss their efforts to drastically reduce cardiovascular disease on the OHSU Effect. Download

A Theory That Reveals the True Origins of Chronic Disease

OHSU’s David Barker, M.D., Ph.D., pioneered the study of the fetal/developmental origins of chronic adult diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Although he is now deceased, his work with OHSU’s Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., is leading to new interventions and preventive strategies to promote good nutrition in future mothers.  OHSU’s Bob & Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness is translating that knowledge into programs and public policies that will change the game against childhood obesity and its devastating complications.

Watch the video,  "Professor David Barker's amazing idea," from BBC documentary "The Nine Months That Made You."


An image from the Gray lab of bone tumor cells studied with where the DNA is stained for analysis

An image from the Gray lab of bone tumor cells

Renowned Knight Cancer Institute researcher Joe W. Gray, Ph.D., OHSU’s Gordon Moore Chair in Biomedical Engineering, is pioneering an entirely new field of cancer biology: spatial systems biomedicine. He is using unique tools, including the world’s first integrated light and electron microscope for bioimaging, to collect structural and genomic information on healthy and diseased cells in the three dimensions of physical space and also over time. It’s a key step in the development of personalized cancer medicine at OHSU and everywhere else.

A Scanner that Catches Hidden Heart Attacks

Cardiovascular imaging pioneer Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., spearheaded the development of microbubble-based myocardial echocardiography, an ultrasound imaging technique that can diagnose heart attacks other methods miss.

Hear Drs. Starr and Kaul discuss their efforts to drastically reduce cardiovascular disease on the OHSU Effect. Download

A Smarter Path to an AIDS Vaccine

Dr. Louis Picker

Dr. Louis Picker

Louis Picker, M.D., and colleagues at OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute have developed an HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate that appears to have the ability to completely clear an AIDS-causing virus from the body.

Hear Dr. Picker talk about his research on the OHSU Effect. Download


Researchers at the OHSU Casey Eye Institute are conducting some of the world’s first clinical trials on gene therapies that may prevent blindness due to abnormal growth of new blood vessels in the eye. Trials are now under way of promising therapies for a form of macular degeneration and other blinding diseases.

A Genetic Key to New Autism Drugs

Gail Mandel, Ph.D.

Gail Mandel, Ph.D.

Gail Mandel, Ph.D., a National Academy of Sciences member and Vollum Institute senior scientist, showed that Rett Syndrome, a devastating autism-spectrum disorder that strikes young girls, is a complex disorder due to glia and neurons. She is exploring several promising gene therapy approaches toward a cure.

A New Source of Stem Cells

Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov

Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov

OHSU’s Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., was the first to report the use of skin cells from a non-human primate to create pluripotent stem cells. This work could lead to better experimental disease models in the lab, new cures for devastating human diseases, and an answer to the debate over embryonic stem cells.

Hear Dr. Mitalipov discuss his latest advancements in stem cell research on the OHSU Effect. Download

Watch a video of Dr. Mitalipov discussing his research.

Technologies that Keep Seniors Safe

Neuroscientists, engineers and physicians across OHSU are developing the next generation of sensing, monitoring and assistive devices that help elderly people live more safely and independently.

Watch an NBC story on the technology being developed at OHSU.

Imaging Techniques that Get to the Heart of Disease

More than 50 years after OHSU radiologists performed the world’s first angioplasty, OHSU is still at the forefront of transforming medical imaging methods into active cardiovascular treatments. Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., and Jonathan Lindner, M.D., are combining intravenous microbubbles with molecular targeting for early diagnosis of disease, breaking up blood clots and to deliver drugs and genes to precise anatomical sites.

Better Diagnosis for Breast Cancer

Sen. Mark O. Hatfield and former OHSU President Leonard Laster, M.D.

Dr. Charles Springer in the core of an MRI instrument

Charles Springer, Ph.D., of OHSU’s Advanced Imaging Research Center, is using high-field MRI as a non-invasive and more precise replacement for surgical biopsies in the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Hear Dr. Springer talk about the advancements in MRI technology being developed at OHSU on the OHSU Effect. Download

Take a video tour of the OHSU Advanced Imaging Research Center.

A Translator for the Complex Language of Brain Cells

By developing powerful new ways to characterize the structure and function of the synapse, National Academy of Sciences member Eric Gouaux, Ph.D., of OHSU’s Vollum Institute, is decoding the signals that nerve cells use to communicate. It will reveal the way our brains work, and expose new targets for better drugs.

Without exception, big ideas like these have been advanced by breakthrough collaborations among passionate physicians and scientists—and through powerful partnerships with private industry, government leaders, and donors of all types. Partnerships make big ideas better. They bring big ideas to life for all of us—for all time.