CORVALLIS - Oregon State University and Legacy Health System have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on mutual research initiatives, especially in the fields of bioengineering and biomedicine.

The agreement also says the two organizations will seek collaboration on teaching and provision of health care.

Legacy Health System is a private, non-profit entity that includes Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center, Meridian Park Hospital, Mount Hood Medical Center, Emanuel Hospital and Health Center, Emanuel Children's Hospital, Legacy Clinical Research and Technology Center, and Legacy Visiting Nurse Association.

This is the third such arrangement Oregon State University has developed in the past several months, as it continues to grow its bioengineering and biomedical research program. OSU initially reached an agreement with Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis to work on cooperative research through a grant from the Whitaker Foundation. Then in March, OSU signed a similar memorandum of agreement with Providence Health Systems.

Officials from OSU and Legacy say the collaboration will boost research in a critical and dynamic field, and provide hands-on education for students.

"We hope to find collaborative synergies around our research activities where OSU can provide an academic orientation, and Legacy can provide the real laboratories through our hospitals and patient care services," said Robert Pallari, president and CEO of Legacy. "We're also very interested in working with OSU to jointly develop students - for future employment, and for future leadership in these fields."

There are several areas of potential collaboration, where researchers from OSU and Legacy already are working in common areas. Among the examples:

  • OSU engineers and exercise physiologists are study the biomechanics of falls in the elderly. These balance studies dovetail with the work of Legacy's Dr. Owen Black, who works with NASA on the effects of zero gravity on the inner ear and balance disorders in astronauts.


  • A Legacy program called "Discoveries in Sight" focuses on sight disorders and glaucoma; OSU is emerging as a leader in research in the field of optics.


  • Neurobiologists at Legacy are studying how cell death occurs during strokes, while researchers at OSU's Linus Pauling Institute and other programs on campus are studying cell death as it relates to other conditions and diseases.

Already, Legacy neurobiologist An Zhou is working with scientists at Oregon State University on mass spectrometer technology for studies in protein research. And OSU biologists are planning to use a new multi-photon confocal microscope at the Legacy Clinical Research and Technology Center.

Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering, said the university's faculty are valuable assets to Oregon's growing biomedical research efforts.

"Biomedicine and bioengineering are growing fields," Adams said. "Our faculty in engineering are working more frequently with faculty in the College of Health and Human Performance, and those new relationships will become increasingly valuable as we engage partners in the health care industry." Legacy is providing financial support to OSU's Health Care Administration program - a commitment that will help provide student scholarships in a field that is facing a critical shortage of trained workers, said Jeff McCubbin, interim dean of the university's College of Health and Human Performance.

It is expected that Legacy Health System and OSU faculty will jointly apply for major grants, collaborate on research, improve professional education, and increase the number of students in the biomedical, bioengineering and public health fields.

OSU's involvement in the bioengineering field continues to grow. The university is midway through a three-year, $1 million grant from the Whitaker Foundation to establish undergraduate and graduate programs in biomedical engineering on campus. The curricula for the undergraduate program already has been developed and implemented; the graduate programs are expected to be approved by the Oregon University System. "These programs are in high demand by some of our best students," Adams said.

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Orcilia Zuniga-Forbes, 541-737-4875