Vollum Institute

The Vollum Institute is dedicated to basic research focusing on gene regulation, structural biology, cell signaling, molecular neuroscience and synaptic modulation with implications for human diseases ranging from autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders to Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, psychiatric diseases and mechanisms of drug addiction.

Gary Westbrook

Welcome to the Vollum Institute

The Vollum Institute is a privately endowed research institute at Oregon Health & Science University dedicated to basic research that will lead to new treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases. Vollum scientists have broad-ranging interests that coalesce around molecular neurobiology and cellular physiology. Their work has transformed the field of neuroscience and, in particular, have provided important advances in the study of synaptic transmission, neuronal development, neurotransmitter transporters, ion channels and the neurobiology of disease.

Upcoming Events


Gail Mandel, Paul Brehm, and John Adelman were selected to receive one of the 2013 NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards. This is the first time anyone at OHSU has received one of these awards, which are designed to support exceptionally innovative, original and/or unconventional research with the potential to create new scientific paradigms. The proposal (which they wrote with Josh Rosenthal from the University of Puerto Rico) uses a novel approach employing RNA editing to correct mutations in disease genes. One goal of the project is to correct a mutation in the transcriptional repressor MeCP2 that causes Rett syndrome, an autism-like disease that affects young girls.
Learn more about the NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards
Read the OHSU news release

Isabelle Baconguis was selected to receive one of this year's NIH Director's Early Independence Awards. This program supports "exceptional students who have the intellect, innovation, drive, and maturity to flourish independently without the need for traditional postdoctoral training." Thirty-one candidates were selected as finalists for this award, based on the quality of the graduate work, training environment, and potential as an independent investigator. Isabelle received a great score on her application, which speaks highly for what the reviewers thought about the NGP, her training with Eric Gouaux, her project on ENaC structure, and, most importantly, Isabelle's potential as an independent investigator.

This is a good start for the Vollum Fellows program, which we hope to continue in the future.
Learn more about the NIH Director's Early Independence Awards
Read the OHSU news release



X-ray structure of dopamine transporter elucidates antidepressant mechanism.

Penmatsa A, Wang KH and Gouaux E.
For the first time, Aravind Penmatsa and Kevin Wang, postdoctoral fellows in the Gouaux laboratory, have resolved the atomic structure of the dopamine transporter in complex with an antidepressant, thus not only demonstrating the mechanism by which antidepressants exert their physiological function but also illuminating the fundamental protein architecture of a biogenic amine transporter, thereby providing a molecular blueprint for the structures of the closely related serotonin and norepinephrine transporters.
Read the abstract in PubMed
Read the OHSU news release

Systemic Delivery of MeCP2 Rescues Behavioral and Cellular Deficits in Female Mouse Models of Rett Syndrome.

Garg SK, Lioy DT, Cheval H, McGann JC, Bissonnette JM, Murtha MJ, Foust KD, Kaspar BK, Bird A, Mandel G.
Rett syndrome is one of the most common forms of mental retardation in girls. The defective gene is a transcription factor, termed Methyl CpG Binding Protein 2, or MeCP2. Loss of MeCP2 in Rett Syndrome results in changes in hundreds of mRNAs, and no one specific protein target has been identified for attenuating neurological symptoms. Members of the Mandel Lab have initiated studies to introduce good copies of MeCP2 into Rett Syndrome mouse models. This recently published paper in The Journal of Neuroscience describes a proof of principle indicating that MeCP2 born on an adeno associated virus that crosses the blood brain barrier, AAV9, offers the potential for gene replacement for patients with this disorder.
Read the Abstract in PubMed

A Walk Through a Vollum Lab

Watch the Westbrook Lab video

Gary Westbrook created a three-minute video to explain the research being conducted in his lab. The video is targeted to prospective postdoctoral fellows and students.

Take a walk through the Westbrook lab