OHSU Launches Informational Web Site About Expansion of Infectious Disease Research, Preparedness

04/28/03    Portland, Ore.

Research, facilities would be used to combat life-threatening infectious diseases by developing new or improved vaccines

Oregon Health & Science University has launched a new Web site to inform Oregonians about expanded research and proposed facilities for vaccine development. The site, www.ohsu.edu/prvi/, details the Pacific Rim Vaccine Initiative (PRVI), a group of measures to conduct additional infectious disease research and build state-of-the-art facilities where vaccines can be developed. The PRVI is OHSU's response to calls by the federal government to better protect Americans against emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Disease threats that may be studied include West Nile virus, SARS, tularemia, dengue fever and pox viruses. Researchers would focus on diseases that could be spread through both natural causes and bioterrorism.

The PRVI Web site features a detailed explanation of new vaccine development efforts already in place and proposals for future research and facilities. Visitors to the site will also see images of the proposed facilities, learn about safety and security measures, take a virtual tour of a biosafety lab and learn about the health and financial benefits for Oregonians and all other Americans.

"The Web site is one of OHSU's many efforts to inform Northwest residents about the research and proposals," said OHSU Provost Lesley Hallick, Ph.D. "We think this federal initiative to proactively protect Americans against infectious disease has the potential for saving millions of lives."

The PRVI includes the recent establishment of the Pacific Rim Biodefense Center, a consortium of institutions that will conduct research on both old and new diseases that threaten the health of Americans. To assist in funding for the biodefense center, the members have submitted a proposal to the federal government to become the Northwest's Regional Center for Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases. The U.S. government plans to fund regional centers across the country to conduct infectious disease research.

OHSU has also submitted two proposals to receive federal funding for construction of expanded vaccine research facilities. These labs would complement and expand upon the existing OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and other infectious disease labs at OHSU. One of the two proposed facilities would house labs for studying diseases that pose the highest threat to human health. Currently, there is a severe national shortage of these biosafety level 4 (BSL4) labs.

"If OHSU receives funding to build the BSL4 labs, the facilities would serve the entire West Coast," explained Bryan Preppernau, Ph.D., OHSU lab safety manager. "Currently, there are no such facilities in the west. We see this as an opportunity to help protect American lives while serving as both a regional and national research resource."