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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow RESEARCH CENTER TO BE MODEL

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RESEARCH CENTER TO BE MODEL

IN THE LAB: Peter Kohler, left, and Phil Creighton tour the science center under construction on the campus of Eastern Oregon University Friday. This particular room will be one of the new laboratories in the facility.  (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
IN THE LAB: Peter Kohler, left, and Phil Creighton tour the science center under construction on the campus of Eastern Oregon University Friday. This particular room will be one of the new laboratories in the facility. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The new medical research and development center in Eastern Oregon University's new science building will become a model for other similar programs in the state.

Taking up less than one full floor of the approximately 100,000-square-foot building, the center, a part of the Oregon Health and Science University, will be the leader in research and development programs that eventually may also be developed in Southern and Central Oregon and the Coast, said Dr. Peter Kohler, president of OHSU.

"I think it's exciting, phenomenal," he said about the possibilities available to OHSU in La Grande.

Some research-related activities may begin in the new center as soon as the building is complete, but full operations are not expected for at least two years, he said.

Part of the plan is to develop an incubation program, where small businesses can develop the university's chemical and biological research into products.

"We're looking for partners," Kohler said during a visit to La Grande Thursday.

Kohler used the example of Chemica, a Bend company, that "takes things to the next step," saying he hopes to see similar small businesses become involved in the OHSU business incubation program.

Private companies will become part of the programs probably in "two to five years," Kohler said. "It's more related to the national (investment) picture."

As Kohler sees the future, research and development into the synthetics used in the pharmaceutical process will be undertaken in La Grande, and he expects the center to attract those who want to study neurobiology. A grant writer who works with National Institutes of Health-funded studies has already told Kohler that he would like to relocate to Union County.

A significant portion of the funding for OHSU's part of the science center comes from the National Institutes of Health, Kohler said. Last year, OHSU attracted $221 million in grants and hopes to gain another $250 million this year.

"I think this budget will go one more year," Kohler said, "and after that grow more slowly for awhile."

A concern of Kohler's is the future of a statewide bond measure approved by the voters to raise a total of $200 million for the overall program. About half of that, $93.7 million, was released in December, but Kohler said, "we may have to fight to get the remainder of the money."

The state's budget crisis has caused legislators to "look wherever they can" to find funds to plug the holes in services, but the funds probably will be released, he said.

Today's climate in the investment world has brought fewer venture capital dollars into small businesses, but Kohler said, "We're well positioned to compete for the dollars available."

The OHSU School of Nursing at EOU will also be housed in the new science building, and Kohler said he hopes research will flourish there and in the OHSU-owned nurse-practitioner clinics of Elgin and Union, where clinical studies into preventive medicine will be important as the population ages.

"We want NIH (National Institutes

of Health) funds for these studies," he said.

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