OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

New genetic, biomedical researchers join OSU

01/17/2001

CORVALLIS - Oregon State University's programs in genetic and biomedical research should be significantly enhanced by the addition of two new, nationally recognized scientists who have agreed to join the OSU faculty, officials say.

James C. Carrington, a professor of biological chemistry at Washington State University, will become the new director of the OSU Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology, which coordinates the efforts of dozens of OSU research faculty in genetics and the biosciences.

Joseph Beckman, a professor of anesthesiology, biochemistry, molecular genetics and neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has accepted the Ava Helen Pauling Chair as the newest member of OSU's expanding Linus Pauling Institute. A Nobel Prize nominee, Beckman will be on the faculty of the OSU Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

"These scientists are of outstanding reputation in their respective fields," said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute. "Dr. Beckman is one of the world's leading authorities on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and he will build a strong research program focused on the role of oxidative stress, antioxidants and dietary factors in neurodegenerative diseases."

Carrington is not only a distinguished researcher, according to OSU President Paul Risser, but also should provide dynamic leadership for OSU's growing programs in gene research and biotechnology.

"Jim Carrington knows how the biotechnology industry works and will continue to increase OSU's strengths in the biosciences," Risser said. "We believe he will help develop the interdisciplinary teams of researchers, collaboration with private industry and technology transfer programs that are needed in large, sophisticated biomedical research programs. This is a big step forward for OSU and biotechnology in the state of Oregon."

Carrington received his doctorate in plant pathology from the University of California at Berkeley, and will have an appointment at OSU as a professor of botany and plant pathology. His research has received millions of dollars in grant support from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies to explore such topics as how viruses infect cells and how hosts defend themselves.

In his new position with the OSU Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology, Carrington said he hopes to improve the research and service activities of the center; enhance training for staff and students; improve the funding base, especially from private or non-traditional sources; and encourage basic research that's relevant to today's social needs.

"Research for the sake of research, in my opinion, is an outdated concept," Carrington said. "Basic research should be done with a consciousness of eventual health, environmental or economic benefits to society, and have impact on more than just a few specialists."

Some of those types of impacts, OSU officials say, are evident in Beckman's work. He has published one of the most influential papers ever done in the study of peroxynitrite, which contributes to injury underlying inflammation, myocardial ischemia, stroke and many degenerative diseases. Some recent research has shown that interactions of peroxynitrite with critical targets in motor neurons may explain the development of Lou Gehrig's disease. For this body of work Beckman has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine.

"It is an honor for me to join the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU," Beckman said. "It is not difficult for most scientists to find roots of their research in concepts emanating from Linus Pauling.

"My research interests have focused on problems related to neurodegeneration," he said. "A decade ago, there were no clues about the causes of Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Now we have important insights at a molecular level about what makes the brain susceptible to degeneration as we age. Significant advances in treatment have been made and there is hope for more rapid progress."

At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Beckman has worked as associate director of the Center for Free Radical Biology. Research done there is related to many studies under way in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute, which works to understand the role of oxidative stress, antioxidant vitamins and other micronutrients and phytochemicals in human health and disease. Areas of research at the institute range from heart disease to cancer, aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

Beckman received his doctorate in plant physiology and biochemistry from Duke University in 1984, has been an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association, and currently holds three major grants from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying Lou Gehrig's disease as well as heart disease.

At OSU, these two new researchers will join about 90 colleagues from six colleges and more than 17 departments or centers who do gene research. Last year, members of the OSU Center for Gene Research and Biotechnology held more than $50 million in long-term grants related to a range of genetic studies, from crop agriculture to animal science, forestry, pollution control, biomedicine and even the evolution of life.