CORVALLIS, OR — Research funding at Oregon State University rose 15% in the last fiscal year, nearly matching the university’s highest level of research grant activity ever.

The impacts of OSU research reach worldwide through initiatives such as potential new cancer treatments, a new Global Hemp Innovation Center and collaboration among scientists and fishers to address ocean acidification that is threatening the health of the world’s coral reefs and shellfish, including crabs and oysters.

“Oregon State University researchers work across the spectrum of scientific endeavor, from basic curiosity-driven projects to targeted applications that save lives and promote economic well-being,” said Irem Tumer, OSU interim vice president for research.

OSU recorded $439.7 million in research grants and contracts for the 2019 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, an increase of nearly $58 million over 2018. In 2017, OSU received its highest level ever, $441 million, partly on receipt of a $122 million grant for construction of a new research vessel. The National Science Foundation provided OSU $88 million in 2018 for a second vessel and $108 million in 2019 for a third.

“Continued research investments by government and industry reflect Oregon State University’s expanding leadership in fields from agriculture and human health to marine sciences, robotics, business, liberal arts and forestry,” said Tumer. “Our faculty are collaborating with businesses, communities and individuals in Oregon and across the world to solve problems and create new economic opportunities. We are proud of our researchers’ accomplishments.”

Among research highlights for the past year were projects to:

  • Develop a vaccine for antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea as part of a multi-university study ($10.7 million from the National Institutes of Health).
  • Improve instruction of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, and better meet needs of undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds ($1 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute).
  • Expand career training and retention efforts in the College of Business with an emphasis on increasing support for low-income students ($775,000 from the Strada Education Network).
  • Develop systems for cystic fibrosis patients to get molecular treatment via an inhaler, a potentially vast improvement over existing therapeutic methods ($3.3 million from the National Institutes of Health).
  • Create portable, solar-thermal desalination technology for serving the freshwater needs of people in drought-stricken coastal communities ($2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy).

“Partnerships, innovation and entrepreneurial activity are vital to the success of these projects,” Tumer said.

For example, on the Oregon coast, OSU scientists are working with Dungeness crab fishers to monitor ocean water acidity and oxygen levels. The data they collect will help the fishing and seafood industries maintain production in the face of changing ocean conditions.

Meanwhile, OSU researchers received support from the National Institutes of Health for innovative cancer studies. With engagement from Oregon Health & Science University, OSU scientists are developing new, more effective treatments for melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer that is often drug resistant. OSU researchers have found that derivatives of a compound produced by hops, xanthohumol, kill liver and colon cancer cells. Experiments with nanoparticles have shown success in treating cancer cells that are hard-to-reach.

To expand the nation’s food supply and develop rural economies, OSU has long worked with farmers and ranchers through its Agricultural Experiment Station network across the state. In a new initiative, after years of planning and coordination with state and federal agencies, OSU has created a new Global Hemp Innovation Research Center to spur the use of hemp in food processing, textiles and oils that can be used for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and nutraceuticals.

OSU research funding from business and industry increased by $5 million, totaling $36 million in FY19, a 16% rise over last year. Sources include technology licensing, contracts for testing, support from the Agricultural Research Foundation and research gifts to the OSU Foundation. Almost half of industry funding covered costs for technology testing services, which OSU labs do to document the performance of innovative products and services.

One key connection to business and industry is the Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator, which spurs research commercialization through the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Such efforts have received funding through the state-authorized University Venture Development Fund (UVDF), which allows donors to the OSU Foundation to receive a 60% tax credit for contributions. UVDF donations to support OSU innovation and entrepreneurship reached $6 million, the statutory limit, over the past nine years.

Last year, OSU scientists leveraged a new Accelerator Innovation Development (AID) Fund, which was created within the UVDF to investigate the market potential of research-based innovations. Among the new startup companies they created are HazAdapt (emergency management software), nexTC (electronic coatings for glass) and BTC (treatments for canine cancer).

“The AID fund is an investment in a company to be formed,” says Mark Lieberman, chief startup officer and co-director of the accelerator. “Learning how the startup process works helps reduce the uncertainty and the reliance on personal cash in starting a new business. That enables entrepreneurs to move forward at a faster pace.”

Federal funding of $305 million accounts for 69% of OSU’s FY19 research grants and contracts, an increase of $49 million, or 19%, over a year ago. State and local governments provided $12 million; foreign governments, $1 million; nonprofit organizations, including foundations, $12 million; business and industry, $36 million; and land grant formula funding, $72 million.

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Project summaries and FY19 research totals for OSU colleges are posted online:

College of Agricultural Sciences: https://agsci.oregonstate.edu/osu-college-agricultural-sciences-grant-information

College of Business: https://business.oregonstate.edu/faculty-research/project-summary

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/research/map/

College of Education: https://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach

College of Engineering: https://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy19-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/collegeofforestry/2019/08/28/fy-2019-research-awards/

College of Liberal Arts: https://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/deans-office/2019-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: https://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: https://health.oregonstate.edu/research/funding-highlights

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2019/08/science-faculty-research-funding-surges-from-last-year/

College of Veterinary Medicine: https://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

General OSU

About Oregon State University: As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 31,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.

Story By: 

Nick Houtman, 541-737-0788, houtmann@oregonstate.edu

Source: 

Irem Tumer, Interim Vice President for Research, 541-737-3467, irem.tumer@oregonstate.edu

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