Doernbecher Named One of 15 Biotechnology Centers by the NIH

07/12/01    Portland, Ore.

Doernbecher will receive $1.5 million and is the only pediatric facility in the country to be part of this national consortium

Oregon Health & Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital was just named a biotechnology center by the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This $1.5 million award represents the first major federally-funded award OHSU has received in the innovative field of functional genomics -the large-scale study of gene function- and ranks Doernbecher's research programs with other leaders in this field. Doernbecher is the only pediatric program in the country to be selected as a NIDDK biotechnology center.

The Human Genome Project's progress in identifying all human genes has created an unprecedented opportunity for medical researchers to uncover the causes of diseases and identify novel therapies. Now well-established NIDDK-funded researchers at OHSU will have the opportunity to apply this type of genomics technology to their research.

The $1.5 million grant will facilitate the operation of Doernbecher's genomics and proteomics facility. Proteomics is the study of the proteins that are the products of most genes. In addition, it will allow experienced NIDDK-funded researchers to apply the human genome information to their areas of interest with the goal of identifying genes and gene products that will be the basis for new diagnoses and treatments. Work at the center will be directed at diseases affecting both adults and children.

"It is the beginning of a new era of rapid translation of basic research discovery into clinical applications," said Srinivasa Nagalla, M.D., who initiated and developed the genomics and proteomics program facility at Doernbecher. He will serve as the director of Doernbecher's NIDDK biotechnology center. This effort is an example of OHSU's commitment to advancing biotechnology and using its clinical applications in the state of Oregon.

Doernbecher Pediatric Research Laboratories at OHSU has been developing its genomics and proteomics facility during the last two years thanks to funding it received from the Murdock Charitable Trust, the Doernbecher Foundation and the OHSU Department of Pediatrics. This grant will allow it to expand its services to other NIDDK-funded projects on campus. The pediatric laboratories are leading the way in microarray analysis, also known as gene chip technology. Using robots, this technology allows scientists to arrange small snippets of DNA on membranes, silicon chips or glass slides. Sample extracts from cells and tissues are tagged with fluorescent dyes and then allowed to stick to specific genes on the chip, which then light up under a special multi-laser scanner. By determining which genes are turned on and which are turned off, scientists can see the pattern of genes that are characteristic of particular disease so that diagnostic tests and therapies can be designed that are directed toward those genes.

The Doernbecher microarray facility has the ability to perform large-scale DNA amplification, sequencing and quantitation. It features a robotic arrayer for generating human and mouse chips, chip scanners and sophisticated software for data analyses on a dedicated server connected to OHSU's mainframe computer.

Doernbecher was named an NIDDK biotechnology center because of its existing reputation in functional genomics and its strong NIDDK-funded research efforts in growth factor action, weight control and related disorders.

"The biotechnology center at Doernbecher is a major success for OHSU. The grant will be of great benefit in accelerating the development of Doernbecher as a center for biomarker discovery, and will help make genomics and proteomics available to NIDDK-supported investigators throughout the campus," said Ron Rosenfeld, M.D., physician-in-chief of Doernbecher, chairman of the OHSU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and principal investigator for the grant.

Some of the research projects the grant will fund include work on the various aspects of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) system in muscle differentiation and prostate cancer, as well as looking for new genes in the brain that control weight, urological disorders and bone marrow dysfunction, and training of investigators in this field.

Together, with other centers such as Harvard, Yale and Baylor, OHSU will become part of a consortium that will allow them to work together in developing new applications for genomic and proteomic research.