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W. M. Keck Foundation grant will help OHSU advance light/electron microscopy for biomedical research

Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute’s vision to advance the science behind personalized cancer care has earned the buy-in of one of the nation’s top private research funders.

The Los Angeles-based W. M. Keck Foundation has awarded $1 million to a multinational, multi-institutional team developing applications and work flow processes for a revolutionary microscope technology at the OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine (OCSSB). The OCSSB is a multi-disciplinary center established by the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and other collaborators within the OHSU School of Medicine to use advanced measurement and computing technologies to reveal the functions of the molecular machines that comprise living systems. The new microscope is thought to be the first self-contained commercial instrument in the world to integrate light and transmission electron microscopy into one instrument that enables analysis of biological specimens. Known as “correlative microscopy,” the technique should reveal the molecular organization of cells and tissues and show how genetic mutations and other genomic aberrations deregulate this organization. This data will make it easier for scientists to understand how best to develop effective and less toxic treatments for individual patients.

“This is the next step in biomedical research,” said renowned cancer researcher Joe W. Gray, Ph.D., who is director of the OCSSB, Gordon Moore Chair of Biomedical Engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and associate director for translational research for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. “In the past, we have focused on measuring the basic structure and function of biomolecules. The W. M. Keck Foundation is helping us build the tools that will lead to a more complex systems-level understanding of how our cells work, how they interact, how they become corrupted, and how they might respond to a particular treatment. This work will improve all aspects of cancer management from detection to treatment, while creating new molecular insights in neuroscience, cardiology, immunology and other disease-focused research.”

Developing applications and work flow processes for FEI’s Tecnai™ with iCorr™ microscope is the flagship project of the newly-formed OHSU-FEI Living Laboratory for Cell Biology, a strategic alliance between OHSU and the Hillsboro-based microscope maker FEI. The two organizations joined forces in 2011 to share know-how and co-develop next-generation laboratory instruments and workflow processes for the life sciences.

The microscope is the first commercial bioimaging system in the world to integrate into one instrument the complementary capabilities of light microscopy and electron microscopy – two very different measurement modes with different advantages in visualizing biological specimens. Light-based, or optical, microscopes allow researchers to view the signaling processes between living cells at scales down to the micrometer level. Electron microscopes have much higher resolving power, meaning they can reveal details about the cell’s ultra-structural features at the nanometer scale. Putting the two modes together will help scientists associate cell behavior to precise points in the cellular architecture.

An integrated machine will increase the speed with which samples can be analyzed thereby increasing the statistical precision of the studies. The approach will allow study of more complex biological systems than traditional biomedical studies because it reveals how molecules, cells and tissues are organized and how they function to carry out the programs of life in normal and diseased tissues.

A multidisciplinary, multi-institutional project

The two-year W.M. Keck Foundation project is the signature initiative of the OCSSB. It involves a team of researchers from OHSU, FEI, University of California – Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Utrecht University, Portland State University and QVQ to develop and refine applications and workflows, and apply these to the study of cell regulation in normal and cancer cells. Underscoring the spirit of teamwork, the system will be housed in the OHSU/Oregon University System Collaborative Life Sciences Building (CLSB), now under construction on OHSU’s Schnitzer Campus. The custom-built, vibration-free laboratory will group chemists, biologists, engineers, computer scientists and other experts by expertise and function rather than affiliation.

The thrust of the project is to develop the procedures and methods needed for the effective use of the system. “New sample preparation and analysis procedures must be developed, including new work flows, new chemistries and new computational procedures, to enable these studies,” Gray said. “These factors are even more important aspects of the project than acquisition and setup of the microscope.”

The team will test the system through experiments supporting the Gray laboratory’s ongoing work in elucidating the architecture of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK)-mediated signaling. These findings may enable development of more precise therapeutic manipulation of this cancer-causing signaling pathway, he said.

“With this grant, the W. M. Keck Foundation is helping OHSU define an exciting new scientific arena with enormous opportunity for discovery and furthering our goal of making personalized cancer therapy a reality,” said OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Director Brian Druker, M.D. “It is inspiring to have earned the support and partnership of this pre-eminent foundation as we enter this new territory.”

The grant marks the W. M. Keck Foundation’s second major investment in OHSU’s biomedical imaging capabilities in less than a decade. A $1.75 million grant in 2006 helped equip OHSU’s Advanced Imaging Research Center with world-class high-field magnetic resonance imaging research systems, including the world’s second-ever large-bore 12-Tesla system.

About OHSU and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university. With more than 1,100 principal investigators working on 4,500 basic science and applied research projects, our breakthroughs lead to new cures, new standards of care and a better understanding of the basic science that drives biomedical discovery. OHSU serves patients from every corner of the state, is a conduit for learning for more than 4,000 students and trainees, and is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is an international leader in cancer research and personalized treatment. The institute’s director, Brian Druker, M.D., helped usher in the era of personalized medicine with his discovery that cancer cells could be shut down by disabling the molecules that drive their growth without harming healthy cells. With the latest treatments, technologies, hundreds of research studies and clinical trials, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center between Sacramento and Seattle – an honor earned only by the nation’s top cancer centers. Visit

The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support for OHSU’s vital missions, and to invest and manage gifts responsibly to honor donors’ wishes. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors’ wishes.

About the W. M. Keck Foundation

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical, science and engineering research. The Foundation also maintains an undergraduate education program that promotes distinctive learning and research experiences for students in the sciences and in the liberal arts, and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth from low-income families, special needs populations and safety-net services.

About FEI

FEI (Nasdaq: FEIC) is a leading diversified scientific instruments company. It is a premier provider of electron- and ion-beam microscopes and solutions for nanoscale applications across many industries: industrial and academic materials research, life sciences, semiconductors, data storage, natural resources and more. With more than 60 years of technological innovation and leadership, FEI has set the performance standard in transmission electron microscopes (TEM), scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and DualBeams™, which combine a SEM with a focused ion beam (FIB). Headquartered in Hillsboro, Ore., USA, FEI has over 2,300 employees and sales and service operations in more than 50 countries around the world. This news release contains forward-looking statements that include statements regarding development of applications and workflows for FEI’s Tecnai™ with iCorr™ microscope. Factors that could affect these planned developments could include unexpected technical difficulties with microscope or applications, and a change in emphasis in the FEI’s Life Sciences strategy. These and other factors could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements. More information can be found at:

About University of California – Berkeley

The University of California was chartered in 1868, and what would become its flagship campus was soon established in Berkeley. Today, UC Berkeley is considered the world's premier public university and a wellspring of innovation, claiming 22 Nobel Laureates, nine of whom are current faculty members. The campus is home to more than 130 academic departments and more than 80 interdisciplinary research units, and enrolls about 26,000 undergraduates and more than 10,000 graduate students.

About Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

About Utrecht University

Established in 1636,Utrecht University has evolved into a leading modern research university with a growing international reputation. On the 2010 Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, Utrecht University ranked first in the Netherlands, 11th in Europe and 50th in the world. With nearly 30,000 students and 8,500 employees divided over 7 faculties, Utrecht University spans the entire spectrum of academic research and education.

About Portland State University

Located in Portland, Oregon,Portland State University (PSU) has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. PSU’s motto is “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” and the university provides every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. PSU’s downtown campus exhibits the university’s commitment to sustainability with green buildings, while sustainability is incorporated into much of the curriculum.

About QVQ

QVQ BV, based on the Utrecht University campus, conducts world-class antibody imaging research that is used to develop methods for the early detection of diseases such as breast cancer and atherosclerosis. The company was founded in 2009 in response to requests for high quality imaging antibodies. It supplies single domain antibodies from camelids for research and imaging.

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