OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Pauling Institute providing early boost to research

03/09/1998

CORVALLIS - An age-old problem that frustrated a two-time Nobel Prize winner 35 years ago is now being addressed by the research institute that memorializes his name and contributions to science.

In the 1960s and 1970s, science pioneer Linus Pauling was repeatedly frustrated by the lack of start-up, or "seed" funding to explore some of his theories about the role vitamin C and other micronutrients could play in the prevention or cure of human d isease. Any studies at the time which went beyond the mainstream of medical research were often rejected before they got off to a decent start.

But in 1998, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has taken a major step forward in addressing that dilemma. Thousands of small and large individual donations have allowed the creation of a Pilot Project Program to provide initial res earch funding to scientists with promising studies - a "get the ball rolling" concept the institute hopes to expand.

Four such grants have just been made for studies in immunology, cancer and other areas, while the Pauling Institute itself continues to grow rapidly since moving to OSU in 1996.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, Linus Pauling often had difficulty gaining research funding to study some of his new theories about the role of micronutrients in disease prevention and therapy," said Balz Frei, director of the Pauling Institute. "Even the sma ll amount of money that could bring studies to the point where they would qualify for more traditional funding support was often lacking."

Now, Frei said, the contributions made to the Pauling Institute by thousands of donors since its founding is allowing four grants of $20,000 each to be made in 1998, in a program that could have been expanded even further if additional money was availa ble.

The grants to OSU researchers included support for:

 

  • Anthony Vella, an assistant professor of microbiology, who has promising research under way on autoimmune dysfunction related to diseases such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis;
  • Ching Yuan Hu, a professor of animal science, who is studying naturally-occurring vitamin A as a means of inhibiting growth of fat cells;
  • George Bailey, Distinguished Professor of food science and technology, who does research on chlorophyll as an inhibitor of chemical carcinogenesis;
  • David Williams, a professor of food science and technology, who is studying ginseng's role in fighting breast cancer.

"This is research on topics of considerable importance, and with the generation of additional data we hope for all of these projects to gain support from larger federal funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health or National Science Foun dation," Frei said.

The late Linus Pauling, who died in 1994 at the age of 93, was an OSU alumnus and the only person ever to win two, unshared Nobel Prizes - for chemistry in 1954 and peace in 1962. He also was a pioneer in the role of micronutrients, phytochemicals and other constituents of food in promoting optimal health and preventing or curing disease.

At OSU, the Linus Pauling Institute which carries on that work is expanding rapidly, Frei said.

The institute now has 12 principal researchers and staff, a number which may double by the end of 1998, he said. The annual $1.3 million budget of the institute is more than double in comparison to the past year, mostly from research grants and funding provided by OSU in support of the incoming faculty. And the Pauling Institute's endowment has gone up recently by about one-third, to $4 million.

Three new principal investigators have committed to joining the institute as tenured or tenure-track faculty. They are Tory Hagen, who has a doctorate in biochemistry from Emory University and will examine the cellular mechanisms of aging; Maret Traber , who holds a doctorate in nutrition from the University of California at Berkeley and will explore vitamin E metabolism and its role in degenerative diseases; and Roderick Dashwood, who has a doctorate from Portsmouth University in the United Kingdom and does research on carcinogenesis and cancer chemoprevention.

"We have all the people in place now for our planned research programs on heart disease, cancer, aging, immune dysfunction, infectious disease, and vitamins C and E," Frei said. "The additional faculty and staff coming to OSU will also provide some exc ellent new opportunities for graduate student education and fellowships."