Oregon State University

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Makes an Impact


Oregon State University researchers are successfully using support from the Department of Health and Human Services to better understand human aging, supplement health at all stages of the lifespan, and more.

HHS support for OSU research during Fiscal Years 2008-2012 totaled over $120 million, with  over $23 Million in FY12 alone. more data

Here are examples ofHHSfunds making a difference

Supplementing Health

Logo National Institutes of HealthOSU research, with NIH funding,
is addressing the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

OSU has been home to Linus Pauling Institute (LPI),  one of the nation's first two NIH / National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Centers of Excellence.

LPI is an international leader in research and education about micronutrients and antioxidants, and is one of a few centers in the U.S. to focus entirely on health promotion and disease prevention.
NIH has provided ongoing support to LPI researchers.

Recent NCCAM-funded projects include a grant for $1M for the competitive renewal of the Center of Excellence Research on CAM Antioxidant Therapies [CAM-CERCAT]. This brings together expertise of Balz Frei and numerous other faculty from LPI and from Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). The work has already led to a paradigm shift in understanding of how antioxidants function in the body, which is fostering the development of new modalities that reverse cell and tissue dysfunctions. CERCAT is working to better understand the mechanisms of action and to test the efficacy of modalities that have the potential to substantially improve the body’s resistance to chronic disease and aging. This knowledge will help develop new modalities to enhance individual and public health and extend “healthspan” – the length of life spent enjoying good health – through inexpensive, safe, and effective means.

Support is enabling advances in understanding how to reduce risk factors for atherosclerosis; vulnerability to toxins in aging; and the role of antioxidants in ALS; plus training of graduate students and post-docs in basic and applied research related to complementary medicine, neurology, and stress.

The research program  of Balz Frei, Director &Endowed Chair of the Linus Pauling Institute, and Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics. is aimed at understanding the mechanisms of oxidative stress in atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, and the ameliorating effects of dietary and metabolic antioxidants, dietary supplements, and metal chelators.

One NCCAM-funded project is for studying  Xanthohumol and Metabolic Syndrome [Xanthohumol is a prenylflavonoid derived from the female flowers of the hops plant. It has a range of biological properties with potential therapeutic utility.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has also funded research of Joseph Beckman.  The professor of biochemistry, holder of the Ava Helen Pauling Chair in the Linus Pauling Institute and director of the widely recognized OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center, is tenacious in his quest towards a therapy or cure  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As he makes progress on the research front, Beckman provides what relief he can for people dealing with this disease, meeting with ALS support groups.

With support from NIAID, Adrian Gombart has made significant discoveries about health benefits of vitamin D, such as key mechanisms responsible, how deficiency affects the innate immune system and the potential of supplementation to boost response. Results have increased public awareness of  how “nature’s antibiotic” may be critical for disease prevention and have potential to reduce rates and severity of infections – with benefits especially for the elderly, dialysis patients and those with certain diseases. Read  more: article 

NCCAM has also funded research by Tory Hagen, whose research has focused on oxidative stress and aging.


Prevention of HIV and STDs

Peggy Dolcini contributes to prevention of HIV and STDs. With funding from NIMH, ARRA and NICHD, her research is leading to the development and evaluation of intervention programs for high-risk adolescents, plus translation to public health practice. Read more


Fighting Infection

Lab, two people.
Kerry McPhail, a medicinal chemist in the OSU College of Pharmacy, with the help of a diving robot, has been collecting unique organisms from unusual, diverse ecosystems  that may make possible the design of a new generation of drugs to fight infection. McPhail joined an expedition exploring the Axial Seamount 250 beyond Oregon’s shore, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health read more

Diverse Projects

The National Institutes of Health is supporting OSU researchers with $4.5 million spread across 16 active projects (as of May, 2012). Among them:


  • Jon Furuno, College of Pharmacy, studies the incidence and severity of MRSA in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
  • Margaret Dolcini, Department of Public Health, studies the behaviors and attitudes of urban African-American youth at risk of HIV/AIDS. Her goal is better prevention strategies.
  • David Williams, Linus Pauling Institute and Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, focuses on the interaction between genes and drug effectiveness in anti-malarial treatments. He aims to maximize drug effectiveness and minimize toxicity.


Environmental Health Sciences

Response to Stresses

Established in 1967 with funding from NIEHS, the OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center advances understanding of how to improve our ability to respond to environmental stresses, with the goal of preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease and neurodegeneration. The collaborative Center headed by Joe Beckman supports the application of sophisticated technologies involving mass spectrometry, cell imaging and genetic analyses, providing an integrated view of the complex impact of the environment on health. Read more


Wiliams, with vegetables. Directed by David Williams, OSU Superfund Research Program’s multidisciplinary team studies the creation and transport of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and how their presence in the environment affects human health.  Supported by NIEHS, research includes air and water sampling in four states along the Gulf before and after oil contamination from the Deepwater Horizon, efforts which will provide unique data on human health risks from the oil spill. In another project, researchers collected air samples in Beijing, China, before and during the Beijing Olympics to assess the effectiveness of source control measures in reducing PAH-induced inhalation cancer risks.  SRP researchers also study the effects of PAHs on developmental toxicity, as well as PAH-induced skin and transplacental cancers. A Community Engagement Core works with Native Americans to study PAH exposures from traditional food preparation practices such as smoking fish. The Research Translation Core communicates research findings from the SRP to the scientific community, regulatory and public health officials, community health organizations, and the general public.


Dr. Williams also directs an R01 research project from the NIHNational Heart Lung and Blood Institute .  This project, now in its 23rd year, examines the metabolism of anti-tuberculosis drugs (TB currently infects 1/3 of the world’s population) to assess the importance of a genetic polymorphism in metabolism of these drugs in individuals of African descent and Hispanics; the hypothesis is that these individuals will have reduced therapeutic efficacy and increased adverse toxicity following treatment.

Dr. Williams is also one of three investigators in The Linus Pauling Institute funded by the NIH / National Cancer Institute to determine the mechanisms by which dietary supplements, such as indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, and the cruciferous vegetables from which they are derived, prevent cancer.  In Dr. Williams' project, addition of the protective phytochemicals to the maternal diet during pregnancy protects the fetus well into adulthood from carcinogens they are exposed to in utero.  

As part of the ARRA and SRP, with the supplement for underrepresented minorities, Sharon Krueger has received training in molecular genetics and human metabolism and conducts studies to further human health. Read about Diversity



NCCAM-funded OSU-LPI Researcher of note: Jan Frederik Stevens, Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry; Principal Investigator, Linus Pauling Institute; Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Project: Xanthohumol (XN) and Metabolic Syndrome  $306K

XN-containing dietary supplements have been marketed in the US since 2007; the number of consumers has increased to about 17,000. The objective is to determine the effect of prolonged oral administration on markers of metabolic syndrome in humans. Hypothesis is that the results will support a preventive benefit in humans with metabolic syndrome who are at risk for cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.

General background “Our research group has interests in the areas of bio-organic chemistry, natural products chemistry and toxicology. Mass spectrometry is an important technique in our laboratory for studying small organic molecules in complex biological matrices such as blood plasma, cell lysates, tissue homogenates and plant extracts.”

[note: An NIH instrumentation grant was awarded in 2007-08 to Stevens for purchase of a new Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer, as part of the Center for Healthy Aging Research Initiative ]

Joe Beckman  Principal Investigator and Ava Helen Pauling Chair, Linus Pauling Institute; Director, Environmental Health Sciences Center; Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, is one of the most frequently cited scientists in the world, in the top 250 in biology and biochemistry, according to the ISI Web of Science (info from 2006).

Beckman uses NIH-NIEHS finding primarily towards understanding how oxidative stress, superoxide dismutase and zinc are involved in Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).

His several recent NIEHS funded projects  have included studies on Reducing Environmental Stress, and Peroxynitrite and ALS.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI has funded seven OSU PIs over the past four years.

NCI-funded OSU Researcher of-note:  Emily Ho

Associate Professor, Principal Investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute, Faculty, Center for Healthy Aging Research, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, College Of Health and Human Sciences

Recent NCI-funded projects include: Dietary HDAC (Histone deacetylases) Inhibitors, and Histone deacetylases (HDAC)* Inhibitors in Cancer Prevention

“Research interests are in the area of antioxidants and gene expression and dietary chemoprevention strategies. I am currently interested in understanding the role of the antioxidant nutrients such as zinc in maintaining DNA integrity and cancer development. Specifically, I am concerned with the effects of zinc status on DNA damage, DNA repair and stress-response signal pathways. We are also becoming interested in the effects of zinc on the immune system, especially as we age. A large proportion of population does not eat enough zinc, especially the elderly, and hence may be at increased risk for cancer and other disorders. Another major focus in the lab is dietary approaches for prostate cancer prevention. We are investigating the molecular mechanisms by which foods like soy, tea and cruciferous vegetables may protect against prostate cancer.”

(*Histone deacetylases (HDAC) are a class of enzymes that remove acetyl groups from an ε-N-acetyl lysine amino acid on a histone.)


Rod DashwoodNCI-funded OSU Researcher of-note:  Roderick Dashwood, Ph.D. Principal Investigator and Director, Cancer Chemoprotection Program, Linus Pauling Institute; Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology.

His recent NCI- funding includes a project on Comparative Mechanisms of Cancer Prevention

Epigenetics is a major new NIH research priority. Dietary factors have been shown to de-repress epigenetically-silenced genes in cancer cells. This project is to better understand how beneficial epigenetic changes can be brought about by dietary agents, to identify and characterize biomarkers that can be applied in the clinical setting, and to evaluate those biomarkers.  With three well-integrated Projects and a complementary Epigenetic/Translational Biomarkers Core, this continuation addresses the application of dietary indoles and isothiocyanates for cancer intervention. Emily Ho is studying chemoprevention of prostrate cancer, DE Williams for lung tumors and lymphomas, and Dashwood for colon cancer. Innovative and timely in bridging basic mechanisms, preclinical modelsa, and human studies of epigenetics and diet.

Another project is on  Dietary HDAC Inhibitors in Colon Cancer Prevention  Read more


The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has funded 16 OSU PIs over the past five years.


NAIAD-funded OSU Researcher of-note: Daniel D. Rockey, Bacteriology  and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, and College of Science Department of Microbiology.

Recent NIAID-funded projects:
ARRA Recombination and Genetics
PHS Chlamydia Recombination in Vivo,

Millions worldwide suffer serious diseases of the eye or genital tract caused by Chlamydia trachomatosis. The study of possible vaccine candidates or logical therapeutic targets is limited by the lack of a practical genetic system. Rockey’s labs have developed technologies that allow a study of the mechanisms involved in Chlamydia recombination, which will facilitate a rational approach to Chlamydia transformation – important in exploring vaccine strategies to fight these bacteria. Read more

Luiz Bermudez


NIAID-funded OSU Researcher of-note: Luiz Bermudez

College of Veterinary Medicine; College of Science: Department of Microbiology

Recent NIAID-funded  project : PHS Genes Associated with M Avium Path,

Interested in the mechanisms of pathogenesis of intracellular bacteria, with focus on mycobacteria.

Mycobacteria are a common cause of infections in humans and animals. Mycobacterium avium, an environmental bacterium, commonly causes disseminated disease in patients with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and pulmonary infection in patients with chronic lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and in elderly women. Mycobacterium tuberculosis infects a third of the world population and is responsible for 3 million deaths annually. Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis is an important agriculture pathogen causing Johne’s disease, a wasting disease in cattle. Mycobacteria also infect fish, and a number of species have been isolated causing disease . . .





National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)  has funded 12 OSU PIs over the past five years.

NIGMS-funded OSU Researcher of-note:  Wei Kong, Physical chemistry

“Our  primary focus is electronic spectroscopy of gas phase biologically related materials and nanomaterials. We perform two types of measurements, including polarization spectroscopy of oriented species and threshold ionization spectroscopy. The information we obtain includes the direction of the transition dipole therefore the movement of electrons upon UV irradiation, and the mechanism of electron transfer. For biologically related materials such as DNA bases and amino acids, this information is directly related to UV induced damages. From electronic and vibrational spectroscopy of nanomaterials, such as GaN quantum dots, we study the fundamental relationship between the electronic and geometric structures, their effect on the properties of the material, and the influence of size on these properties.”

Recent NIGMS-funded project : “PHS ARRA Crystalography w/o Crystals: single molecule electron diffraction of laser oriented ions”  $500K.

Media release: Controversial Findings Help Explain Evolution of Life, 4-6-06
Chemists at Oregon State University have pioneered a controversial theory about how supposedly-stable DNA bases can be pushed into a “dark state” in which they are highly vulnerable to damage from ultraviolet radiation – an idea that has challenged some of the most basic concepts of modern biochemistry.

The theory, not long ago dismissed as impossible by much of the science community, has in recent months begun to garner increasing interest and is being confirmed by other studies. Read more

__Michael Freitag

NIGMS-funded OSU Researcher of-note:  Michael Freitag

Recent NIGMS grant: ARRA Functional Analysis and Systems Biology of Filamentous Fungi

The Freitag lab is a leader in the development of ChlP-sequencing for plant, fungi, and animal species. Because of its expertise, it will assist with the generation fo tagged N. crassa strains, the verification of epitope expression by molecular methods and chromatin immunoprecipitation of fungal chromatin.

Background :Media Release _8-26-10

Light, circadian rhythms affect vast range of biological functions...Read More


NIGMS-funded  OSU Researcher of-note:   Elisar J. Barbar

recent NIGMS grant : Dynein Light Chain as a Dimerization Hub for Natively Disordered Proteins

- to study the role of Dynein Light Chain  LC8 as a molecular hub that facilitates dimerization of its disordered partners in various complex systems. Work will elucidate binding thermodynamics and structural characterization of the 2 best-known proteins that interact with LC8 – toward understanding the roles of LC8 in the cellular systems in which it participates, and will promote progress in the field in general. Broader applicability – LC8 can serve as model for other hub proteins that interact with a large number of disordered partners. Studies will also provide novel insights in the structural biology of dynein motor function, complementing the cell biological approaches that predominate the field of intracellular transport.

General background: “The major research focus of my lab is the structural biology and assembly of cytoplasmic dynein, a principal motor for minus end directed transport along microtubules. We hope that our work on dynein will lead to new methods for controlling certain diseases. The cancer drug Taxol, for example, is effective in preventing spindle formation in rapidly dividing cells; a complementary therapy would prevent transport of chromosomes by dynein along the spindle. Perhaps just as important, however, will be advances in our fundamental understanding of protein-protein interactions, molecular recognition, and the assembly of biologically important protein complexes.”


Healthspan Research

Healthy Aging

Karen Hooker, a pre-eminent scholar in the aging sciences who has published extensively on personality, health behaviors, and mental and physical health related to aging, is the founding director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research. Her work has been supported by the National Institute on Aging. She served on an NIA study section 1998-2002.

The National Institute on Aging has supported work on Dietary Prevention of Cardiac Mitochondrial Aging by Tory Hagen,  Director of OSU's Healthy Aging Program , Endowed Chair in Healthspan Research, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Principal Investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute.

A National Institute on Aging-funded study of scientific and medical efforts to control human aging is being conducted by Rick Settersten, OSU professor of Human Development and Family Sciences, and the first endowed director of OSU's new Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families.

Settersten and co-investigators are also supoorted by the NIH / National Human Genome Research Institute in the emergent field of personalized genomic medicine.


Obesity Prevention Program

Childhood obesity is a problem faced by many families across the nation. In addition, many children in rural areas face obstacles, such as access to fresh healthy foods and physical activity and recreational programs, that help to fight obesity.

NIFA awarded OSU assistant professor Deborah John almost $5Million to stare "Generating Rural Options for Weight-Healthy Kids and Communities.” John works with Cooperative Extension in six Western states to assess features in rural communities that either prevent or promote obesity and community resources and readiness that could help with prevention efforts.  Read more

weather across a field

Studying the effects of climate change on agricultural and forest production

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2011 – USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today awarded three Coordinated Agriculture Projects (CAP) representing a major scientific investment in studying the effects of climate change on agriculture and forest production. NIFA Director Roger Beachy made the announcement today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

A team led by Dr. Sanford Eigenbrode, of the University of Idaho, will receive $20 million over five years to monitor changes in soil carbon and nitrogen levels and greenhouse gas emissions related to mitigation of and adaptation to climate change in the region's agriculture, which produces 13 percent of the nation's wheat supply and 80 percent of its specialty soft white wheat for export. The research team will also determine the effects of current and potential alternative cropping systems on greenhouse gas emissions, carbon, nitrogen and water-levels, as well as energy budgets and local and regional farm income impacts, using models and replicated field trials. The team is composed of researchers from the University of Idaho, Washington State University, Oregon State University and USDA's Agricultural Research Service. Read more


NIH Funding for Oregon State University

NIH Center/Institute

Award Total (FY11)

Award Total (FY12)

Fogarty International Center for Advanced Study in Health Sciences


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine



National Center for Research Resources


National Cancer Institute



National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute


National Institute on Aging


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism



National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases



National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease


National Institute of Child Health and Human Development



National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research



National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


National Institute on Drug Abuse



National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


National Institute of General Medical Sciences


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke



National Institute of Mental Health






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