Meet the New Director

Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Director, Linus Pauling Institute

Photo of Balz Frei, Ph.D.

An Introduction

Richard A. Scanlan, Ph.D., Dean of Research

Our international search for a permanent director of the Linus Pauling Institute has ended very successfully with the selection of Dr. Balz Frei, who will hold the Linus Pauling Institute Endowed Chair and a professorship in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. Dr. Frei and his family will move to Corvallis in August 1997. The search produced a large number of highly qualified candidates, indicating intense interest in the mission of LPI.

Dr. Frei is currently an associate professor of medicine and biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine. After receiving his Ph.D. from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1986, Dr. Frei was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Bruce Ames, University of California, Berkeley. From 1990 to 1994, Dr. Frei held faculty positions in nutrition and toxicology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Frei and his wife, Simone, were born in Switzerland. They have three daughters and a son, all born in this country, who will certainly enjoy the mountains and ocean close to Corvallis.

As an internationally recognized expert on the role of antioxidants, including vitamin C, in atherosclerosis and heart disease, Dr. Frei will attract top students and faculty. We have no doubt that the mission of LPI will be enhanced by this outstanding appointment, and OSU enthusiastically welcomes Balz Frei and his family to Corvallis.

To the Future

It is with great pleasure that I have accepted the position of Director of the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University (OSU). I feel honored and privileged to be given the opportunity to continue the legacy of Dr. Linus Pauling, one of the most brilliant and influential scientists of all time. As you know, during the last twenty-five years of his life Dr. Pauling devoted much of his attention to the role of nutritional factors, particularly vitamin C, in maintaining optimal health and preventing and treating disease. This subject has also captivated my own interest for many years and will be the mission of LPI at OSU.

Dr. Pauling showed a lively interest in my scientific work, particularly my paper entitled "Ascorbate [vitamin C] is an outstanding antioxidant in human blood plasma." I published this paper in 1989 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (vol. 86, pp. 6377-6381), when I was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Bruce Ames' laboratory at the University of California in Berkeley. In this study, I showed that vitamin C forms the first line of antioxidant defense in plasma and is, in fact, the only naturally occurring antioxidant capable of completely preventing lipid peroxidation in plasma, a process by which the lipids in low-density lipoprotein react with oxygen. This process of low-density lipoprotein oxidation plays an important role in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis, the clogging of arteries leading to heart disease, myocardial infarction and stroke. Therefore, my finding that vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant against lipoprotein oxidation has important implications for the prevention and, possibly, treatment of heart and cerebrovascular diseases. I have since been able to demonstrate a number of additional benefits of vitamin C related to its antioxidant activity, such as reducing oxidative stress in smokers and improving the function and relaxation of arteries in patients with coronary artery disease.

While I will further describe my past scientific work and plans for the future in an upcoming issue of the LPI Newsletter, let me briefly outline here my vision for the Institute. The long-term goals are to strengthen LPI as a first-class scientific research institute and a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the fields of nutrition and micronutrients pertaining to their role in human health and disease. My first order of business will be to establish my own laboratory here, so that I, in collaboration with new faculty colleagues at OSU, can continue to do research devoted to human health needs. The Institute will also continue to sponsor scientific meetings and promote health education around the world. At the same time, LPI will launch a national search to fill the Institute's three new tenure-track faculty positions with first-rate scientists. In the future, I expect that the Institute will consist of up to eight groups of scientists working in areas central to the mission of LPI. We hope to make great strides toward improving public health by discovering new ways of preventing and treating heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, allergies, and other ailments. Another long-term goal is to build our own building on the OSU campus as a permanent home for LPI.

These are ambitious goals, and we will only accomplish them with your continued help and generous support. I will make sure that every dollar you donate is invested wisely in our research programs and provides the best value, to ensure a healthier future for people everywhere.

Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Director, Linus Pauling Institute

Last updated May, 1997

Honoring a Scientific Giant with Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

Please send any comments, suggestions, or questions about The Linus Pauling Institute to