OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU honors medical/health researchers with Distinguished Prof awards

03/07/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregon State University faculty members have been awarded the title of “distinguished professor” – the highest honor that OSU gives to its faculty – for their teaching and collaborative research in biomedical sciences and environmental health science.

The honorees are Luiz E. Bermudez, a professor and interim associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Robert L. Tanguay, a professor of molecular toxicology in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

“The study of human health and disease prevention is one of OSU’s most important and rapidly growing fields of study, and professors Bermudez and Tanguay epitomize the excellence and international prestige of our faculty,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. “Their honors are richly deserved.”

Bermudez specializes in the study of tuberculosis and other mycobacterial diseases. Funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of nearly $1 million – as well as numerous other research grants – he is pioneering the first new tuberculosis therapy treatment in four decades. His research is critical: Tuberculosis is making a comeback around the world and infects about 8 million people annually, killing a quarter of them.

Some new strains of tuberculosis have developed strong resistance to powerful drugs, which have been “the backbone of modern anti-TB chemotherapy,” noted Bermudez, who also heads the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Now it is very common for a healthy person to acquire drug-resistant bacteria directly. In terms of public health, that is a nightmare.”

Bermudez has been on the OSU faculty for eight years and is noted for his teaching and mentorship as well as research. He also is a leader among national medical health researchers, chairing or participating on grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tanguay came to OSU in 2003 to direct the university’s Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Laboratory, where he has created a world-class zebrafish research facility. Tanguay and other scientists use zebrafish as a model organism to study environmental effects on human health. During the past year, he received the prestigious National Institutes of Health Director’s Award of $2 million to build advanced robotics to automate zebrafish experimentation.

“A surprisingly large number of human diseases can be modeled in fish,” said Tanguay. “With about 80 percent of genes in humans also present in these fish, they present an opportunity to better understand risks to human health.”

Tanguay is a professor in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at OSU, and also is noted for his teaching and service as well as research. In addition to studying the effects of toxins at the molecular level, he is pioneering new approaches for drug and environmental chemical safety testing, examining mechanisms for regenerative medicine, and investigating the emerging field of nanotoxicology.