OHSU and UO joint research teams report progress, plans

Researchers from the UO and Oregon Health & Science University met last month for a research summit that bridged disciplines and spanned the 110-mile geographic divide between the two research universities.  

The half-day event in Salem strengthened bonds among 10 research teams selected in June to each receive up to $50,000 in seed funding. The program is part of the UO-OHSU Partnership Program, which catalyzes research and scientific impact through increased partnerships between OHSU and UO faculty members.

The October summit represented the second such large-scale gathering between researchers from the two Oregon institutions. UO President Michael Schill and OHSU President Danny Jacobs each provided opening remarks emphasizing the synergy of the partnership.

“The work that these 10 teams will undertake demonstrates our collective commitment to high-impact research and discovery,” Schill said. “The University of Oregon and OHSU each have an opportunity to leverage our collaboration in ways that amplifies our reach and strengthens both of our universities.”

Jacobs said the commitment to collaboration displayed at the summit was extraordinary.

“Scientific progress happens at the intersections of various disciplines,” he said. “Breakthroughs will occur now more than ever when researchers from seemingly disparate fields get together and talk about the way forward. That’s where the magic happens.”

Research teams each gave two-minute elevator pitches outlining their projects. The work fell into the categories of either pilot research projects — involving grant submissions or the gathering of preliminary data — or convening projects designed to bring researchers together to explore future collaborations.

The majority of the summit involved teams meeting together for a work session to discuss and plan the next steps in their collaboration. For several groups, which had been conducting their work over email and by phone, it was the first time they had sat down together at the same table since the project began.

As a testament to the enthusiasm for the joint projects, most teams had positive things to say about the collaborative nature of the program, despite the physical barriers.

“We’ve had a lot of fun working together,” said Xiaolin Nan, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at OHSU’s School of Medicine who is partnering with the UO’s Ramesh Jasti on the  project “Nanohoops as New Materials for Multiplexed Biological Imaging.”

“It’s been kind of a natural fit,” agreed Jasti, an associate professor in UO’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The next step for the teams will be to carry out their work plans over the coming year and submit a progress report. Some teams are already jointly applying for external funding, which could allow the seeds of collaboration to grow further, administrators said.