The Medical Research Foundation has announced its award winners for 2016. Two scientists from OHSU — Stephen Back, M.D., Ph.D., and Richard Stouffer, Ph.D. — won awards, as well as Oleh Taratula, Ph.D., from Oregon State University.
The 2016 Discovery Award was given to Stephen Back, M.D., Ph.D., for his seminal work in the molecular pathways of brain repair. Dr. Back is professor of Pediatrics, Neurology and Anesthesiology-Critical Care Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University — Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. He is director of the Division of Pediatric Neuroscience and holds the Clyde and Elda Munson Professorship in Pediatric Research. Dr. Back’s early work defined cellular and molecular mechanisms of preterm brain injury related to cerebral palsy. These discoveries led to the present focus of his lab: developing strategies to promote regeneration and repair of chronic brain injury in preterm infants and adults that arises after stroke. Dr. Back and his team have provided unexpected insights into the remarkable potential of the preterm brain to repair itself after injury. This work has led to the discovery of new molecular pathways that prevent brain repair after injury. By defining the roadblocks to repair, Dr. Back’s lab has been able to focus on developing promising new drugs to circumvent maladaptive responses of the brain that impede repair. These studies have broad relevance to several adult brain disorders, from multiple sclerosis to vascular cognitive impairment and dementia related to aging. These adult conditions, surprisingly, share many common features with the disturbances in brain repair pathways identified in preterm infants.
The MRF Committee also recognized Richard Stouffer, Ph.D., with the 2016 Mentor Award for his exemplary work as a scientist and mentor. Since his dissertation research in the 1970s, Dr. Stouffer’s primary research focus has been on understanding the structure, function and regulation of the ovary to understand and improve women’s reproductive health. In 1985, he joined the Oregon National Primate Research Center to take advantage of its exceptional nonhuman primate resources and support services, its outstanding faculty studying reproductive biology—and the opportunity to train graduate students and fellows. Dr. Stouffer has a deep commitment to mentoring students, fellows, and young faculty, and the international success of his trainees is a distinguished legacy. He has mentored over 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and as division chief, he was actively involved in mentoring early-career faculty from across OHSU. He continues his work as advisor and mentor: As of August, 2015, Dr. Stouffer became scientific director of the NIH-funded WRHR (Women’s Health) Scholar Program in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine. Dr. Stouffer was chief of the Division of Reproductive & Developmental Sciences at the Oregon National Primate Research Center from 1996-2014. He now serves as professor in the Division of Reproductive & Developmental Sciences, ONPRC, with joint appointments in the OHSU School of Medicine’s departments of obstetrics and gynecology and physiology and pharmacology.
Finally, Oleh Taratula, Ph.D., was awarded the 2016 Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award. Dr. Taratula is an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University. The major focus of his research is the development of multifunctional nanomedicine platforms that can detect and kill cancer cells using novel combinatorial therapeutic modalities. Dr. Taratula’s work in nanotechnology allows him to understand and exploit the molecular processes of cancer as they happen in real time. This work is important because delivering therapeutic and diagnostic agents directly to cancer sites can both improve treatment and reduce side effects of treatment. His goal is to provide oncologists with nanotechnology approaches that can be used both for delineating tumors with real-time fluorescence signals during surgery and for targeted treatment to further eliminate unresected disease sites. In addition to his appointment at Oregon State, he also holds an appointment as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering, School of Medicine, at Oregon Health & Sciences University.