The University of Oregon is partnering with Oregon Health & Science University to form a joint Center for Biomedical Data Science that will provide students and faculty with new opportunities for cancer research collaborations.
The center will include up to 20 researchers and their teams to analyze OHSU’s patient data, according to Around the O. This continues UO’s new Presidential Data Science Initiative, which is working to include data in department research across the university, according to the Data Science Program about page.
“The reason this makes so much sense is that as we are able to measure more and more variables related to a person's genes and proteins and cells,” said Dr. Robert Guldberg, UO vice president and executive director of the Knight Campus. “Data analytics and artificial intelligence and those different areas are helping to predict complex systems, and there are complex systems all around us. Cancer is a great example of that.”
The center will be an extension of data science research between UO's Knight Campus, which is currently under construction in Eugene, and OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute in Portland. Each institution will provide space for the partnership's research teams, according to the Register-Guard.
“To make something really big like this happen really takes the stars aligning,” Guldberg said. He said it’s the vision of the president and other UO faculty members, as well as their colleagues at OHSU, that has come together to create the partnership and all that they hope it will accomplish.
Dr. Brian Druker, director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, emphasized the immediate need for cancer treatment. "I can't tell a patient to be patient. They need something today,” Druker said. “Too many patients get diagnosed with cancer too late, and we often don't have something for them. We need something for those patients now, but we need to prevent that from happening by diagnosing cancer earlier."
Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny have been major financial supporters of both Knight institutions.
Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and his wife Mary also recently gave the university $10 million to support the research efforts, according to Around the O.
“A good portion of the gift from Tim and Mary Boyle is going to be directed towards providing greater opportunities for students and being able to attract great students to come and participate in this center,” Guldberg said. “There will be fellowships and scholarships and funding for student research."
Druker said that both institutions are committed to involving underrepresented student demographics. He hopes diversification of student involvement with this research will translate to impactful discoveries for his patients. "My long-term goal is to have this remarkable, energetic group of young individuals that believe they can change the world, and give them the tools to do that," Druker said.
A senior director, who would act as a liaison between the two campuses, has not yet been hired.
There will be a national and international search for the ideal candidate, Guldberg said. Each university has agreed to pay up to $1 million per year for five years to cover the director’s salary and expenditures, according to the Register-Guard.
Guldberg said he wants to continue the Knight Campus’s mission of doing world class science that translates discovery into societal impact at the quickest rate possible and said he hopes this is the first of what will be many centers affiliated with the Knight Campus.