The Vollum Institute at OHSU (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)The Vollum Institute is a privately endowed research institute at Oregon Health & Science University dedicated to basic research that will lead to new treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases. Vollum scientists have broad-ranging interests that coalesce around molecular neurobiology and cellular physiology. Their work has transformed the field of neuroscience and, in particular, have provided important advances in the study of synaptic transmission, neuronal development, neurotransmitter transporters, ion channels and the neurobiology of disease.
Learn more about the Vollum's mission

NGP students awarded prestigious fellowships

Photo of Alex Houser and Katy Lehmann in front of the Vollum InstituteCongratulations to first-year Neuroscience Graduate Program students Alex Houser and Katy Lehmann who have been awarded 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships! This prestigious and highly competitive award recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated the potential to be high achieving scientists.
Read more at OHSU Research News

Vollum researchers in the news

Targeting conformational states to modulate SERT activity

Researchers in Eric Gouaux's lab have discovered new information about the structure of the serotonin transporter (SERT), a brain protein linked to anxiety and depression, by studying a small-molecule drug called ibogaine which binds to a central site in the transmembrane domain of SERT. Lab members and first co-authors, Jonathan Coleman and Dongxue Yang, used cryo-EM to reveal the structure of the SERT–ibogaine complex in the outward-open, occluded and inward-open conformation states. The research was published online April 24 in the journal Nature.
Read the PubMed abstract
Learn more at OHSU News

Onward with cryo-EM

Isabelle Baconguis, Peter Barr-Gillespie and Eric Gouaux are a few of the Vollum Institute researchers who utilize cryogenic electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, to resolve molecular structures. They were recently featured in the spring edition of OHSU's Onward magazine.
Learn more about the ways cryo-EM is changing structural biology
Meet the cryo-EM scientists

Structure of AMPA receptors in their natural state revealed

Ribbon diagram of the AMPA receptor in its natural stateResearch by Gouaux lab members, Yan Zhao and Shanshuang Chen, and their collaborators at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, is the first to reveal the structure of AMPA receptors in their natural state. The findings were published in Science on April 11.
Read the PubMed abstract
Learn more at OHSU News

James Frank, Ph.D., joins the Vollum Institute

The Vollum Institute is thrilled to welcome Dr. James Frank, Vollum Fellow and Research Assistant Professor.

Photo of James A. Frank, Ph.D., Vollum FellowDr. Frank received his undergraduate training in Chemistry at the University of British Columbia and was a Ph.D. student in Organic Chemistry with Prof. Dirk Trauner at the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich. He is an expert in membrane receptor signaling and has been a leader in photopharmacology, which entails the use of synthetic chemistry to generate signaling molecules that can be reversibly switched on or off by light. Photopharmacology is similar to optogenetics, whereby researchers use light-sensitive membrane channels to activate the firing of specific neurons in intact neural circuits. Optogenetic methods have transformed the field of neuroscience and allowed researchers to determine the functional or behavioral consequences of stimulating very specific subsets of neurons. Photopharmacology allows for a similar but much finer level of molecular control of signaling in neurons — light-switchable molecules can be designed to stimulate endogenous signaling pathways and then deployed to determine how activation of that pathway in neurons regulates neuronal physiology.

While at the LMU, Dr. Frank developed a number of photo-switchable diacyglycerols (PhoDAGs) that can be used to optically control the activity of Protein kinase C (PKC), a key signaling factor downstream of many membrane receptors, and Munc13, a critical regulator of synaptic vesicle release in neurons. As a Vollum Fellow, Dr Frank’s research program will develop and exploit new light-sensitive chemical tools to explore the roles of membrane localized signaling events in neural circuit activity, and how these go awry in neurological diseases including addictive behaviors, anxiety and depression.

The Vollum Fellow Program is designed to provide the academic freedom and resources necessary for exceptionally promising young scientists to launch a research program shortly after receiving their Ph.D.