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NIH funds OSU training of natural products, supplement researchers

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CORVALLIS, Ore. (KTVZ) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year grant of more than $1 million to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute and College of Pharmacy to support graduate students in the study of natural products with the potential to enhance human health.

Natural products are chemical compounds that are produced in nature, often by plants, and have been the basis of many therapeutic agents and dietary supplements.

LPI Director Richard van Breemen and pharmacy researcher Taifo Mahmud are co-principal investigators on the project, funded by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health.

The $1.2 million award will support five graduate students and “address the need to train a new generation of experts in research concerning natural products drug discovery and in the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements,” van Breemen said.

“Historically, natural products have accounted for over half of all therapeutic agents, and today are still the inspiration of nearly 40% of new drugs,” he said. “Yet, the demands in this field are constantly changing, requiring a dynamic program dedicated to transferring the most relevant skills to researchers. Thankfully, training young scientists is a core mission of our College of Pharmacy and the LPI.”

The College of Pharmacy has been a global leader in natural products research for nearly 70 years, van Breemen said.

“And following the lead of its namesake, the Linus Pauling Institute remains focused on using micronutrients, phytochemicals and dietary supplements to prevent disease and maintain human health,” he said. “OSU graduates occupy leadership positions in academia, industry and government in the United States and throughout the world, and this grant will help us produce even more and better-trained researchers and leaders.”

The project, funded through a highly competitive “T32” grant, will include a collection of mentors for the graduate students. In addition to van Breemen and Mahmud, seven other investigators from Oregon State University are part of the program.

“This group includes natural products expertise not only from botanical sources, but marine and microbial products as well,” van Breemen said. “Potential research projects could touch on dietary supplements, genomics, cancer therapy, chemoprevention, pharmacology and organic synthesis. It gives each student coming to OSU the freedom to choose from a diverse number of interests in the natural products world.”

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