Tag Archives: AZBio Awards


How 3 Arizona biotech companies set the pace

Calimmune, Inc.,  HTG Molecular Diagnostics, Inc.,  and VisionGate, Inc. are picking up the pace and when they reach the finish line we all win.

Making LIFE better is the goal of every life science company.  Bringing life-changing and life-saving innovations to market is never a sprint race.  It’s a journey that has twists and turns, requires specialized talent, capital to fuel its engines,  the courage to take risks, and determination to navigate around obstacles to reach the finish line. 

Three Arizona companies are doing just that.  They are not only  growing and passing key mile markers, they are accelerating on their journey to bring hope to patients herein Arizona and around the world.

For their efforts and their progress, Calimmune, HTG Molecular Diagnostics, and VisionGate have been  selected by their peers to be honored as AZBio Fast Lane Companies at the AZBio Awards on October 1, 2015 at the Phoenix Convention Center.  Over 500 leaders from across the state of Arizona, and visitors from across the country and across the world will come together to celebrate with them and thank them for their commitment to making LIFE better.

Calimmune is a clinical-stage, international gene therapy company that has assembled a world-class medical and scientific research team to develop innovative cell-based gene therapies for several disease indications, including HIV. Calimmune is also developing a rich product candidate pipeline to address the needs of different types of individuals at different states of HIV infection and with different levels of treatment experience.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were approximately 35 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2013. Of these, 3.2 million were children less than 15 years old. While today’s current therapies are helping patients manage their disease, today there is no cure. If Calimmune is successful in completing this journey, the result will be life-saving for HIV infected patients and life-changing for the people who love them.

Cal-1, the company’s lead therapeutic candidate, is a gene-based therapy engineered to control HIV infection and to protect individuals with HIV from progressing to AIDS. The therapy is currently being evaluated in Phase I/II studies. Cal-1 is designed to reduce production of CCR5, a protein on the surface of white blood cells that plays a critical role in enabling HIV to infect cells. It also has a second mechanism aimed at preventing viral fusion, the process by which the virus enters the cell. This dual approach was shown to be effective against broad strains of HIV in pre-clinical studies.

In 2015, Calimmune successfully completed its $15 million Series B financing round, led by AbbVie.   Alexandria Venture Investments also joined with existing investors including RA Capital Healthcare Fund LP and Translational Accelerator LLC. Proceeds will be used to progress the company’s ongoing HIV/AIDS clinical trials, advance technology research programs and general corporate operations. 

HTG Molecular Diagnostics’ mission is to empower precision medicine at the local level. Precision medicine is the use of an individual’s molecular profile to guide treatment. The precision comes from advances in genetics and protein biochemistry that allow diseases to be identified and then broken down into subsets based on precise defects that cause the disease.  In 2013, the company commercialized its HTG Edge instrument platform and a portfolio of RNA assays that leverage HTG’s proprietary nuclease protection chemistry. HTG Edge system capabilities have been expanded to fully automate sample and targeted library preparation for next-generation sequencing (NGS).

In 2015, the company completed its initial public offering, receiving net proceeds of $44.2 million.

“After completing our successful initial public offering, we are excited to be working to accelerate our business strategies,” said TJ Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We continue t make progress in our growth initiatives in panel expansion, market development in reimbursement and key research collaborations, and preparation for our first FDA submission. We believe we are well positioned to participate in the democratization of clinical molecular profiling.”

More than half the people with lung cancer die within one year after being diagnosed, according to the American Lung Association. Lung cancer causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and prostate) and its  symptoms do not appear until the disease is already in an advanced, non-curable stage.

VisionGate, Inc. is led by Dr. Alan Nelson, physicist, bioengineer and entrepreneur who previously developed the world’s first and only automated screening test to detect cervical cancer, marketed today as FocalPoint by Becton Dickinson. The wholly owned VisionGate Biosignature Laboratories (VBL) offers LuCED, a non-invasive diagnostic test for early-stage lung cancer detection with exquisite sensitivity and specificity. This take-home sputum test is processed on the world’s first 3D cell imaging platform, the Cell-CT, named aptly because it is similar in principle to taking a CT scan of individual cells, but using visible light without harmful radiation.

Just two weeks ago, VisionGate presented its blinded study results at the 16th World Conference on Lung Cancer. This study demonstrated 92% sensitivity to lung cancer and 98% specificity. Additionally, in July 2015, VisionGate had two peer-reviewed articles appear in Cancer Cytopathology, a publication of the American Cancer Society. One article covered the technology utilized to render patient results and the other was on LuCED’s clinical performance following a multi-center, international study.   In May 2015, VisionGate received CLIA certification and its laboratory became the first CLIA-certified lab operating in an entrepreneurial incubator in Arizona.

Over the last year, VisionGate secured new clinical collaborators that will assist with an eventual FDA approval. As such, VisionGate was invited to be part of the PUSH trial, which is a follow-up trial to the renowned NELSON trial in the Netherlands. This trial is one of the world’s largest and includes 12,000 lung cancer patients.

VisionGate added collaborations with some of the nation’s top oncology hospitals and lung cancer screening programs and  also added an additional 17 patents to its intellectual property estate over the past year bringing the grand total to 127. VisionGate will move into a 16,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix in October and plans to increase staff from 17 employees to about 50 people over the next 18 months.

In addition to the substantial life-changing and life-saving benefits these  innovations will bring to the people affected by these diseases and the people who love them, these tests and treatments can have a major impact in the future on reducing healthcare costs and bending the healthcare cost curve.

Innovation by definition is making life better.  Arizona life science companies, like Calimmune,  HTG Molecular, and VisionGate will do more than just make life better.   They have the potential to make LIFE better, to help us live longer, and to provide  more timely, more affordable, and more effective healthcare options.

To learn more about the impressive progress these companies are making, visit AZBioAwards.com and click on their award links to read all about them.


AZBio honors Fast Lane Award winners

Three innovative and ground-breaking companies were honored by the Arizona Bioindustry Association at the AZBio Awards on Sept. 17 as AZBio Fast Lane Award honorees. The companies honored were:

• Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is developing novel therapeutic agents, diagnostics, and lifestyle recommendations that make possible the treatment of risk factors for cancer.

• Pinnacle Transplant Technologies, Inc. manufactures innovative allografts produced to the highest standards of quality and safety and a dedication to being the most responsive and accommodating Tissue Bank in the industry.

• SenesTech is a biotech platform and research company that has developed an innovative technology for managing animal populations by fertility control that are non-lethal treatments that have the potential to be more effective, more humane, and less invasive to the environment than traditional management methods.


Bioindustry honors Innovators at AZBio Awards

The Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) today announced that more than 350 leaders from across the State of Arizona will be gathering at the Phoenix Convention Center on October 10, 2013 to celebrate AZBio’s 10thanniversary as Arizona’s statewide bioindustry association and to recognize the leaders, innovators and companies that are making Arizona one of the fastest growing bioscience states in the nation.

“Over the last decade, Arizona’s bioindustry has delivered an aggregate job growth of 45% (2002-2011) and an increase in the number of healthcare and bioscience firms by 31%,” shared AZBio President and CEO Joan Koerber-Walker. “This is the result of executives, innovators, researchers, educators, and elected leaders working together to embrace possibilities and collaboratively create a fast growing industry that is creating high wage jobs and addressing some of our greatest challenges: improving health and creating new industries that leverage our natural resources and our steadily increasing collection of internationally recognized talent.”

In addition to honoring the hundreds of organizations that have worked together over the last 10 years to create and drive life science innovation in Arizona, the AZBio Awards recognize specific thought leaders and industry leaders for their contributions. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about and gain insights from:

  • Thomas M. Grogan, M.D., Founder of Ventana and SVP Medical Affairs at Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche Group and recipient of the AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement honoree.
  • Linda Hunt, President and CEO of Dignity Health Arizona, the 2013 Jon W. McGarity Arizona Bioscience Leader of the Year.
  • Amanda Grimes of the Mesa Biotechnology Academy in the Mesa Public Schools, recipient of the Michael A. Cusanovich Arizona Bioscience Educator of the Year Award for inspiring students to explore careers in the biosciences.
  • Orphan drug pioneer Leslie Boyer, M.D., founding director of the VIPER Institute at The University of Arizona. With her team of international collaborators developed the FDA approved anti-venom for the scorpion’s sting.
  • John W. Lewis, Mayor of the Town of Gilbert, Arizona recipient of the AZBio Public Service Award for his leadership in attracting and supporting the development of world class research, manufacturing and clinical services in Gilbert.
  • The team from Arizona Bioscience Company of the Year – W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., Arizona’s largest life science employer. The Gore Medical Products Division has provided creative therapeutic solutions to complex medical problems for more than 35 years. During that time, more than 35 million innovative Gore Medical Devices have been implanted, saving and improving the quality of lives worldwide Gore has been granted more than 2,000 patents worldwide ranging from polymer processing to medical devices.
  • Dr. Robert Bowser, AZBio Fast Lane Award winner for pioneering new diagnostics for ALS and traumatic brain injury at Iron Horse Diagnostics, Inc.
  • Dr. Garrett Smith, co-founder of Nasseo, Inc., the Fast Lane Award winning company that has developed the FDA approved TiArray™ Dental Implant.
  • Jeff Martin, CEO of Fast Lane Award winner Yulex Corporation and the team that delivers Yulex’s Guayule BioRubber Emulsions and BioRubber Solids that have medical, consumer, and industrial applications to grow an increasingly diverse market community with ultra-pure, high-performance products.
  • And executives from Algae Biosciences, Ventana, Pfizer, Genentech, EY, Northern Arizona University/TGen North, Regenesis Biomedical, Ulthera, VWR, and NACET.

The 8th Annual AZBio Awards will be held Thursday, October 10, 2013 at the Phoenix Convention Center. In addition to the Gala Awards Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the VWR Company Showcase and Student Discovery Showcase sponsored by NAU will highlight the work of Arizona’s current and future life science leaders from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and again from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. so that attendees can see the work being done across the industry and interact with the leaders and future leaders who are driving bioindustry innovation. The event is open to the public and tickets are available for purchase at AZBioAwards.com.

“Almost 100,000 Arizonans are embracing possibilities every day across Arizona’s healthcare and life science sector. Through their efforts, we are making life better here at home and around the world by discovering, developing, and delivering life science innovations,” added Koerber-Walker. “AZBio is honored to have the opportunity to work with them and to bring so many of our leaders together in one place on one day so our community can meet them and learn about them too.”


TGen’s Keim named AZBio’s 2012 Bioscience Researcher of the Year

TGDr. Paul Keim, Director of the Pathogen Genomics Division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Cowden Endowed Chair of Microbiology at Northern Arizona University (NAU), will receive the 2012 Bioscience Researcher of the Year award from the Arizona BioIndustry Association (AZBio).

“Dr. Keim was nominated by members of the Arizona Bioscience Community and selected by an independent, statewide panel of leaders for this recognition of his research and innovation in the field of pathogen genomics and microbiology,” said AZBio President and CEO Joan Koerber-Walker.

His award will be presented at the 7th annual AZBio Awards on Oct. 23 at the Phoenix Convention Center. An industry showcase and student discovery session are scheduled from 3-5:30 p.m., and the awards gala is from 6-9 p.m.

“AZBio’s recognition of Dr. Keim is extraordinarily well deserved,” said TGen President and Scientific Director Dr. Jeffrey Trent. “Paul’s unique achievements in interpreting the microbial genomes of pathogens — both those that naturally cause disease, but also those made into weapons by terrorists — are of profound importance.  His research, coupled to his dedications to his students and to the cause of public health globally, place him in the upper echelon of premier scientists, and puts Arizona on the map in this critical growing area of research.”

Dr. Keim is a world-renowned expert in anthrax and other infectious diseases. At TGen and NAU he directs investigations into how to bolster the nation’s biodefense, and to prevent outbreaks — even pandemics — of such contagions as flu, cholera, E. coli, salmonella, and even the plague.

“Our science has been completely transformed by the rapid advancements of technology. Now, TGen’s job is to rapidly advance our science to make great impacts on human health. We have that ability, therefore, we feel that we have that responsibility,” said Dr. Keim, a Professor at TGen and Regents Professor of Microbiology at NAU.

Dr. Keim also is Director of NAU’s Microbial Genetics & Genomics Center, a program that works with numerous government agencies to help thwart bioterrorism and the spread of pathogen-caused diseases.

Since 2004, he has been a member of the federal government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). He helped draft national guidelines for blunting bioterrorism while elevating ethical standards and improving the quality of scientific research. Dr. Keim’s work at the NSABB includes recently serving two years as the acting Chair.

While TGen this year celebrates a decade of progress, TGen’s Pathogen Genomics Division, also known as TGen North in Flagstaff, is celebrating five years of protecting human health though genomic investigations of some of humankind’s most deadly microbes.

“Paul Keim’s work ranges broadly — from plague in prairie dogs, to cholera in Haiti,” said NAU Provost Laura Huenneke. “Here at NAU, literally hundreds of students, both undergraduate and graduate, have participated in that research and launched from there into successful careers. His research group has also grown into the strong partnership between the university and TGen North — a huge economic development dividend for Flagstaff.’’