Science at ONPRC

The major research areas of the Center are organized into the four Research Divisions: 1.) Neuroscience; 2.) Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism; 3.) Pathobiology & Immunology; and 4.) Reproductive and Developmental Sciences. The research divisions are essential in: (1) providing the scientific resources that enable the Center to develop its research programs; (2) enhancing the research environment of the scientists by bringing together a critical mass of scientists with similar interests; and (3) developing collaborative research efforts with scientists outside of the Center. Having well-defined research divisions has been important in our very successful efforts to increase the number of graduate students and fellows at the Center. 

The Division of Pathobiology & Immunology is the focus for all research conducted at the Center that is AIDS-related, as well as a number of other key infectious human viral pathogens; this division provides a similar focus for new biodefense initiatives.  Faculty members in this division are also faculty in OHSU's Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute.

The Division of Neuroscience conducts research on developmental neuroendocrinology and neurodevelopment, with programs aimed at identifying the early roots of metabolic syndrome/obesity and diabetes, the developmental underpinnings of neurodegeneration, and the genomic mechanisms controlling sexual development.  Other programs focus on the neurobiology of aging and associated disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, the neurobiology of mental illness, and complex behaviors and addiction.

The Division of Reproductive & Developmental Sciences conducts basic and applied research on aspects of reproductive biology that are particularly relevant to understanding human reproduction and to controlling reproductive disorders and fertility, and is responsible for a number of recent advances in reproductive biology and other technologies, notably stem cell biology.

The Division of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism investigates a number of aspects of nonhuman primate biology relevant to human obesity, including evaluation of disease mechanisms and potential therapeutic approaches for clinical use.

The Division of Comparative Medicine plays a critical role by providing nonhuman primates and expertise to research projects in all divisions. The Division of Comparative Medicine has been reorganized, in keeping with the increase in the NHP population, funded research projects using NHPs, the development of new animal facilities, and the increasingly complex nature of managing multiple disease models, aging, housing, genetics, etc.

In addition to the established Divisions, Interdisciplinary Research Groups have been instituted to develop interdisciplinary research programs. These Groups—Biology of Aging, Early Childhood Health and Development, and Primate Genetics—are co-led by Core Scientists from different divisions, and represent a close collaboration with veterinarians and professional staff in the Division of Comparative Medicine. These are placed on the Organizational chart connecting the Scientific and Animal Resource Divisions to emphasize the connectivity and interdisciplinary nature of this endeavor.

Currently, four Special Resource Programs (Primate Genetics, Aging Nonhuman Primates, Infectious Disease, and Obese Nonhuman Primates) have been developed to manage and support the various NHP resources at the Center. The heads of these Programs report to the Director, since their resources are utilized across all four Divisions. These Programs also have oversight committees to ensure that the NHP resources serve the scientific needs of the research programs and are managed in a cost effective manner. These programs play a key role in enabling the research in the Working Groups.

Centerwide Scientific Communication. Coordination and sharing of information between the Scientific Divisions is handled in biweekly meetings of the Expanded Executive Team. Each of the Scientific Divisions holds divisional meetings and seminars, including “Work in Progress” seminars once per month by Scientists and Veterinarians on site. Centerwide seminars, presented by luminaries in various fields, are held monthly with the three ONPRC Divisions and three Working Groups sponsoring two outside speakers each for a total of 12 speakers per year. These seminars open to the broader OHSU community. To encourage scientific exchange in a more relaxed setting, the ONPRC is sponsoring a monthly social on Friday afternoons.

Accessing Research at ONPRC is a key focus of our current efforts. We have expanded our commitment to serving outside investigators to streamline the access to animals, approval of protocols, and initiation of research. This activity is now the responsibility of the Collaborative Research Unit.