OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Biotech forum hears from researchers seeking nature-based tools

02/27/1997

CORVALLIS - The search for natural substances that can cure or prevent disease, in people and animals, will take two Oregon State University scientists on March 3 to a national forum on biotechnology in Washington, D.C.

Jo-Ann Leong, distinguished professor and chair of the OSU Dept. of Microbiology, and William Gerwick, a professor of pharmacy, will join 10 other scientists for the Sea Grant Marine Biotechnology Briefing.

The briefing showcases work funded by the National Sea Grant College Program and its member institutions, including OSU, in the field loosely known as biotechnology - the use of cutting-edge chemistry, engineering and genetic manipulation to understand and manipulate living organisms.

Gerwick and Leong will speak along with representatives from eight other Sea Grant programs at the forum. The audience is expected to include science writers, industry leaders, federal policy-makers and Congressional staff.

The event is the second in a series of topical policy forums organized by the National Sea Grant College Program, which supports marine research, education and outreach nationwide.

Leong and Gerwick are among several OSU researchers who have received funding through Oregon Sea Grant to support biotechnology research projects over the past two decades.

Leong, a leading researcher in fish disease, is exploring ways in which natural disease-fighting components of a fish's own genetic material can be used to boost the effectiveness of vaccines. The technique shows promise for diseases which cost world aquaculture millions of dollars year.

Gerwick, whose work with marine algae has taken him around the globe in search of specimens, is looking for potent chemical compounds which have potential use as cancer-fighting drugs, anti-inflammatory agents and pesticides. Among other things, he has been investigating ways to grow large quantities of the chemical-producing algae cells in the lab, to protect the natural resource from over-harvest.