LPI Looks to the Future

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[A history of the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, Part 8 of 8]

The opening of this current decade promises to be even better for the Linus Pauling Institute than was the last. The decade got off to a great start when, in 2011, Oregon State University opened the Linus Pauling Science Center to house LPI, parts of the department of chemistry, and other lab and teaching spaces.

For the Institute, the historical importance of the completion of the Linus Pauling Science Center is difficult to overstate. The building, which is the largest academic facility on the OSU campus, was a serious undertaking – it cost $62.5 million to build the four-story, 105,000 square-foot research center. The funding was acquired through donations from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation ($20 million), the Al and Pat Reser family ($10.65 million), 2,600 private individuals (~$600,000), and a matching bond ($31.25 million) from the State of Oregon.  The facility is one of the cornerstone achievements of The Campaign for OSU, a capital campaign which seeks to raise $1 billion in funds by June 2014.

Constructing its own building on the OSU campus was a goal for LPI from the minute the Institute moved to Corvallis. Indeed, Linus Pauling Jr. remembers sketching potential plans on napkins while at meetings with OSU staff during the moving process and Institute Director Balz Frei has written that ever since LPI moved to OSU, building “a state-of-the-art research facility to house the Institute and serve as a high-profile working memorial for Linus Pauling” had been one of LPI’s highest priorities.

A portion of the crowd assembled for the LPSC opening ceremonies, October 14, 2011.

A portion of the crowd assembled for the LPSC opening ceremonies, October 14, 2011.

The Linus Pauling Science Center was opened on October 14, 2011. Over 250 people attended the ceremony, during which Linus Pauling Jr. and OSU President Edward J. Ray delivered the main speeches. In his remarks, Dr. Ray noted his belief that “preventive health care is the future of medicine,” and that LPI and the Linus Pauling Science Center are in strong positions to develop this in the twenty-first century.

A light painting by Stephen Knapp, Linus Pauling Science Center.

A light painting by Stephen Knapp, Linus Pauling Science Center.

The center was designed by the firm ZGF Architects LLP, based in Portland, Oregon. It is a unique building with large windows and ample natural light. In addition, each of its floors is home to several works of art, including several light paintings created by Massachusetts-based artist Stephen Knapp, and those who work in the facility enjoy an enviable lunch spot on a fourth floor balcony looking toward the Coast Range mountains.

The view from the "lunch room."

The view from the “lunch room.”

Its lab space, however, is the real highlight of the Linus Pauling Science Center. Unlike most facilities, LPSC’s labs consist mostly of open space, with only a few partial walls separating research areas. Administrator Steve Lawson commented on this decision, noting “We didn’t want a lab environment with a lot of walls… For us, it’s a way to keep the Institute coherent and increase the possibility of people communicating.” In further pursuit of this goal, most of the Institute’s noisier lab equipment is kept behind closed doors in dedicated spaces away from the work environment, thus rendering the laboratories a more pleasant place to think and interact.

Peering down the LPSC laboratory space.

Peering down the LPSC laboratory space.

In recent time, LPI has also begun working to expand the staff supporting its very popular Healthy Aging Program and Healthy Youth Program. As part of this initiative, the Institute hired Kathy Magnusson, an expert on aging, memory, and degenerative brain diseases, to fill the role of Primary Investigator and to work with the Healthy Aging Program. Likewise, Corvallis High School partnered with LPI to develop the Spartan Garden, which is primarily student-run and is linked with outdoor horticulture classes that teach students about growing and preparing healthy foods.

Currently LPI has scheduled the seventh Diet and Optimum Health Conference for May 15-18, 2013, and has established an ambitious research agenda. At the time of this writing, LPI has twelve laboratories working on:

  • Oxidative stress, lipoic acid, and essential metals in atherosclerosis
  • Vitamin E metabolism and biological functions
  • Oxidative and environmental stress in Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stress response, lipoic acid, and mitochondrial dysfunction in aging
  • Cancer chemoprotection by phytochemicals in tea and vegetables
  • Transplacental cancer chemoprotection
  • Epigenetic and epigenomic mechanisms of cancer etiology
  • Zinc and antioxidants in prostate cancer and neurodegeneration
  • Novel biological functions of vitamin C
  • Antioxidants and gene expression in diabetes
  • Dietary fats and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism
  • Vitamin D and zinc in immune function

Seventeen years after moving to Oregon with a core staff of five, LPI has regenerated its roster to 63 employees. Of particular note, Steve Lawson still works there, the only individual from the California days to remain. The Institute has remained prolific, has published three books (in addition to re-releases of two Pauling books) and continues to publish dozens of articles in various scientific and medical journals every year. The Institute also circulates a biannual research newsletter, available via the mail or through its website, lpi.oregonstate.edu.

Logo for the 2013 Diet and Optimum Health Conference.

Logo for the 2013 Diet and Optimum Health Conference.

The Institute is currently working to expand its support for its corpus of graduate student laboratory researchers, who are, as Balz Frei puts it, “the heart and soul of [LPI’s] labs at OSU.” To date, plans do not include any sort of major expansion of full-time staff, with a focus instead on further developing the staff infrastructure already in place. The Institute’s plan for 2013 and onward is to strengthen its current research projects and to acquire additional funds for scholarships, endowments, research, and educational programs. Lastly, LPI also hopes to broaden its outreach and health programs, such as the Diet and Optimum Health Conference, Healthy Aging Program, Healthy Youth Program, research newsletter, and Micronutrient Information Center.

One of LPI’s core missions is to “help people everywhere achieve a healthy and productive life, full of vitality, with minimal suffering, and free of cancer and other debilitating diseases.” As of 2013, the 40th anniversary of its founding and with many years of turbulence in its past, the Linus Pauling Institute appears to be in a better position than ever before to continue working towards this goal.

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The Linus Pauling Science Center

Artist's rendering of the Linus Pauling Science Center

Artist’s rendering of the Linus Pauling Science Center

Last Friday, September 25th, Oregon State University formally launched the construction of what will be the largest academic building on the OSU campus – the Linus Pauling Science Center.  Scheduled for completion in Spring 2011, the Pauling Science Center is a centerpiece of the on-going Campaign for OSU.

The crowd assembled on the west edge of campus for the launching ceremony.

The crowd assembled on the west edge of campus for the launching ceremony.

Linus Pauling’s extraordinary career was defined in large part by his ability to synthesize scientific details across disciplines.  His revolutionary work on the nature of the chemical bond, for example, involved at its core the marriage of the new physics – quantum mechanics, which Pauling studied as it was being developed by the great European scientists of the early and mid-1920s – with chemistry’s quest to understand how atoms bind together to form molecules.

The ambition of the Linus Pauling Science Center is, in a sense, to follow a similar model by bringing the entire faculty of the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) under the same roof as the OSU Department of Chemistry, as well as students and researchers in both the physical and life sciences.  LPI Director Balz Frei, speaking at the launch ceremony, suggested that the completion of the building promises to be a “seismic event” for work in the sciences at OSU.  And in a recent issue of the LPI research newsletter, Frei had this to say about the Institute’s aims for their new space.

Our goal is to have five laboratories in each of the three major areas of research in the Institute: cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer chemoprotection, and healthy aging. We also continue to expand our outreach efforts, including the Micronutrient Information Center, which provides free, scientifically accurate information on vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and certain foods and beverages. We would like to enhance these efforts to educate people about the important role of diet and lifestyle and supplements in disease prevention, which is becoming increasingly urgent as healthcare costs continue to increase. We plan to get involved in school programs to encourage kids to exercise more and eat healthily, and we are in the process of setting up a study in older adults to investigate the beneficial effects of specific lifestyle changes in maintaining health.

Dr. Balz Frei, Director of the Linus Pauling Institute, at the launch ceremonies.

Dr. Balz Frei, Director of the Linus Pauling Institute, at the launch ceremonies.

OSU President Ed Ray.

OSU President Dr. Ed Ray.

George Pernsteiner, Chancellor of the Oregon University System.

George Pernsteiner, Chancellor of the Oregon University System.

This will not be the first building named for Linus Pauling.  In 1951 the Centro de Estudos Linus Pauling was christened at what was then known as the Universidade do Recife in Brazil.  A different Linus Pauling Study Center was dedicated in Santiago, Chile in 1992.  Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California is home to Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Hall; Caltech has named a lecture hall after Pauling in its Gates Laboratory of Chemistry; Corvallis boasts of Linus Pauling Middle School; and we have recently received word of a Linus Pauling Hospital being built in Madagascar!

Logo used by the Chilean Linus Pauling Study Center.

Logo used by the Chilean Linus Pauling Study Center.

The Corvallis Gazette-Times has more on the launch celebration, including a description of the commemorative beam signing that closed the event.