From the Director

Balz Frei, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics
Director and Endowed Chair
Linus Pauling Institute

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Dr. Joseph Beckman, the new Ava Helen Pauling Chair in the Linus Pauling Institute. Dr. Beckman currently is a Professor of Anesthesiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Genetics and Neurobiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. His academic and tenure home at Oregon State University will be the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and he will also hold an adjunct appointment in the Department of Chemistry. The funding for this endowed chair was made possible by a bequest from an LPI donor that the Institute received in January 1998. Over the next three years, thousands of other donations came in from loyal supporters and friends of the Institute around the country, making the full funding of the Chair possible. Our grateful thanks to all of you for this happy development.

Dr. Beckman is one of the world’s leading authorities on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS. In a series of ground-breaking experiments over ten years ago, he discovered the biological and toxic effects of a compound called peroxynitrite, which appears to play a pivotal role in ALS. Dr. Beckman has published the most influential paper in this field, which has been cited over 2,800 times by other scientists in their publications and has opened up a whole new field of research. There is now strong evidence that peroxynitrite plays an important role not only in ALS, but also in numerous other disorders of blood vessels, skin, heart, lung, kidney, and brain. For example, Parkinson’s disease is associated with peroxynitrite-mediated damage to the substantia nigra, the brain region that becomes dysfunctional in these patients, and mounting evidence indicates that peroxynitrite also plays a crucial role in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Beckman’s recent work in Lou Gehrig’s Disease has been published in the prestigious journal Science and provides strong evidence that a mutated form of the enzyme superoxide dismutase—leading to increased peroxynitrite production—causes this devastating disease. Dr. Beckman will continue this important work at LPI by building a research program focused on the role of oxidative stress, anti-oxidants, and dietary factors in neurodegenerative diseases. He has contributed an article to this Newsletter describing his research program and future plans at LPI. 

I am also pleased to announce that Dr. Anitra Carr has joined the LPI faculty. Dr. Carr has been at the Institute for three years as a Research Associate and has been recently promoted to Research Assistant Professor. This appointment is the result of Dr. Carr’s extraordinary scientific achievements and outstanding contributions to the Institute’s research programs. During her tenure at LPI, Dr. Carr has published over a dozen scientific papers, has presented her work at numerous national and international conferences, and was awarded a grant from the American Heart Association. She has also trained many undergraduate and graduate students in the Institute. In her new faculty position, Dr. Carr will continue her work on the role of white blood cells in atherosclerosis and heart disease and the protective effects of dietary antioxidants, including vitamin C. Dr. Carr has previously published an article in the LPI Newsletter on tea tree oil and has also contributed an article on Ava Helen Pauling in this issue.

Finally, our conference on “Diet and Optimum Health” will be held in Portland, Oregon, May 16-19, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Linus Pauling’s birth. As you know from our previous Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2000), the program will focus on the role of diet in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as in the aging process itself. I would like to encourage you to attend the public session on May 19th, which will feature presentations by the first recipient of the LPI Prize for Health Research and by many other prominent scientists. 

I am hopeful that the centenary celebration and our conference, together with our recent success in recruiting Dr. Beckman—enhancing the research scope and scientific impact of the Institute—will generate the excitement and momentum necessary to get our next big project off the ground, which is a fund-raising campaign for a new building to house LPI on the OSU campus. We are seeking donors who would consider a lead gift to initiate this capital campaign. It would make a world of a difference for the future of the Institute and be a fitting tribute to Dr. Pauling on his 100th birthday! 

Last updated May, 2001

Honoring a Scientific Giant with Nutritional Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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