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OGI Strategic Plan Launches New OHSU Research Era

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Plan includes building the school's endowment, bolstering research faculty and moving to South Waterfront

Oregon Health & Science University is launching a strategic plan for its engineering school that will usher in a new era of multidisciplinary research aimed at solving human and environmental health problems.

The plan for the OGI School of Science & Engineering, formerly the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology that merged with OHSU in 2001, will be a boost to the school's efforts to build long-term financial stability. It also will create an important geographical link with the rest of the OHSU campus on Marquam Hill and in Portland's developing South Waterfront district.

"OHSU will truly be a one-stop shop for biomedical research," declared Edward Thompson, Ph.D., the school's dean. "We're the only academic health center in the country with a fully integrated school of science and engineering, and the kinds of discoveries that result have the potential to change the world."

The 2007-2012 plan calls for building the school's endowment to $60 million, a third of which has been raised by OGI donors. This will allow the school to support about 40 distinguished faculty members generating more than $20 million in research funding per year by 2012, with a significant portion coming from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and others. It also will allow Ph.D. student enrollment to increase.

OHSU President Peter Kohler, M.D., said the plan affirms the School of Science & Engineering faculty's role in helping OHSU turn discoveries into therapies. "It allows OHSU to seamlessly span the gap between high-tech and health care," he said.

Most of the funds for the endowment will be raised through private fundraising and the sale of the school's 40-acre Hillsboro campus, a portion of which OHSU will lease back for the school's use until the school moves to the university's 20-acre Schnitzer Campus just south of the Marquam Bridge. OHSU is in discussion with a broker for the sale, which could take place as early as this fall.

OHSU officials hope to have completed the school's move to the Schnitzer Campus, where it will use more than 85,000 square feet, in seven years. Its Department of Biomedical Engineering is expected to move to OHSU's Center for Health & Healing at South Waterfront by the end of 2006.

A precise value has not been determined for the Hillsboro campus, which is anchored by the Cooley Science Center and the Bronson Creek Building, and has 270,000 square feet of office, classroom and laboratory space.

The plan has support from those within the high-tech industry, including Stephen Pawlowski, Intel Corp. senior fellow, chief technology officer of the Digital Enterprise Group and general manager, Architecture and Planning. A 1993 OGI graduate with a master's in computer science and engineering, he now serves on the Dean's Advisory Council at the school.

"As an Intel executive, I know that Intel views the School of Science & Engineering as a key partner in advancing education critical to the high-technology industry in Oregon," Pawlowski said. "As an OGI graduate, I also have a strong personal interest in having the school succeed and continue to serve the professional development needs of the region's high-tech industry long after its move to South Waterfront."

The School of Science & Engineering will continue to offer graduate education classes to the region's high-tech industry through its departments of Management in Science & Technology and Computer Science & Electrical Engineering after its move to the Schnitzer Campus, Thompson emphasized. "OGI will maintain its firm educational foothold in Oregon's high-tech corridor through the leaseback period and beyond. The school is the bridge between the high-tech community and the health care industry, which is an area of incredible growth and opportunity for local technology companies."

The Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, the Neurological Sciences Institute and the Oregon National Primate Research Center will remain at OHSU's West Campus nearby.

Thompson said the school's new home at the Schnitzer Campus will solidify its geographic link with the Marquam Hill Campus and enhance collaborations the school's engineers have already made with the university's larger research community. "The school will be able to expand its efforts to invent the technical tools that lead to healthier lives and a healthier environment," he said.

The School of Science & Engineering already is well on its way to achieving that goal. Its four departments - Biomedical Engineering, Environmental and Biomolecular Systems, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, and Management in Science and Technology - have spawned seven research programs as part of a "research roadmap" that will require collaboration between engineering faculty members and clinicians, such as nanobiotechnology, biomedical optics and imaging, and environmental microbials.

"We couldn't have these programs without collaboration between the physicians who deal directly with patients every day, and the school's science and engineering faculty. The engineers can then go back to the lab and create the high-tech tools physicians need," Thompson said.

OGI was established as Oregon Graduate Center in 1963 after then-Gov. Mark O. Hatfield ordered a study on the feasibility of creating a self-contained graduate education center in the state. The Tektronix Foundation provided $100,000 to purchase the center's first buildings, and Tektronix Inc.'s founder, Howard Vollum, pledged another $2 million to get the school up and running. OGC's name was changed to Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology in 1989.

Little did Vollum and other innovators involved in OGI's formation know the school would someday help OHSU become the biotechnology leader it is today, Kohler noted. "Forty years ago, Tektronix underwrote the first research at Oregon Graduate Center that laid the seeds for the many important discoveries for improving human and environmental health we're seeing today at OHSU."

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